As San Diego Unified faces a growing financial pinch on its $2.1 billion bond to renovate schools, it is asking the school board to pull the downtown schoobrary out of the bond completely and pay for it entirely with redevelopment money. That would free up $20 million for other school renovations.
The redevelopment funding comes from the Centre City Development Corp., which gives a chunk of the property taxes it gathers to the school district specifically for public schools serving downtown students. Stuart Markey, who oversees the renovation bond at San Diego Unified, is proposing that the school district use that money to pay for all $30 million of the schoobrary, which includes a $20 million lease for two floors of the imagined downtown library and $10 million in other construction costs.
The school board had earlier signed on to the idea of using $20 million out of Proposition S, the $2.1 billion school bond, to cover the lease, and only using $10 million in redevelopment money for the rest. But San Diego Unified has faced several financial pressures on its renovation money: Dropping revenues from local property taxes have slowed the flow of bond money for repairs. That has delayed projects for years.
But while other school repairs are being delayed, the downtown library school has stayed at the top of the list, stirring up complaints from some parents.
And there is even more financial pressure because California will not provide some money that San Diego Unified had been expecting. That has led the school district to try to reduce its expenses. If it doesn’t, the school district would overspend by $36 million in 2012 alone, according to a staff presentation to the bond oversight committee on Thursday. Markey said his plan would help stop that.
The school board, which has not yet been briefed on the idea, would have to approve the plan to use redevelopment money instead of the bond funds. CCDC spokesman Derek Danziger said the agency believes that as long as the redevelopment money is used for educational facilities downtown, it is a legitimate use of the money, but he was unsure what it would have been spent on otherwise.
— EMILY ALPERT