Budget crisis: School projects face cuts, delays

Lack of capital budget leaves funds for local campuses in limbo

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter



Capital Budget Crisis

A three-part series

Saturday: Capital budget impasse affects projects statewide.

Sunday: School building projects face delays, budget cuts.

Monday: Ambitious Steigerwald habitat project left in limbo.

No state capital budget could mean the delay of projects at area schools, and in one case, budget cuts.

Washington State University Vancouver and Clark College hope to receive about $7.5 million combined for campus projects in this year’s proposed biennial capital budget, which was held up after state legislators failed to pass the spending plan over a disagreement with how to respond to a state Supreme Court ruling on rural wells.

In limbo at Clark College are $5.2 million in pre-design and design dollars for the first building at its campus at Boschma Farms in Ridgefield.

“We’re six months behind on planning for the north county facility,” college spokesman Chato Hazelbaker said.

Also significant, Hazelbaker said, is the two years of annual $422,000 for facilities improvements such as adding accessible restrooms, repairing roofs, additional security cameras and emergency speakers.

Then there’s another two years of annual $464,000 state allocations for facilities operations. Those dollars pay for facilities maintenance, ground maintenance and custodial services.

If Clark College doesn’t receive significant funding by January, Hazelbaker said, “we are going to have to look at cutting budgets. We’re banking on that money coming in.”

Washington State University Vancouver, meanwhile, requested $500,000 to begin pre-design work for an estimated 72,000-square-foot life sciences building.

The building will include instructional labs and research space. The project has been in Washington State University Vancouver’s 10-year capital plan since 2003.

Vancouver Public Schools, which is in the midst of design and planning new campuses after voters approved a $458 million bond measure, could be affected by a backlog of projects if the delay continues into next year.

“If it should extend into the following year, then that very likely would have an impact on our receipt of the state match fund,” said Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent of facility support services for the district.

The district next year is expecting about $50 million in state assistance, which Horenstein said will help the district build a new elementary school, make improvements to the Kiggins Bowl, improve the district’s warehouse and central administration building and conduct some energy upgrades.

“Those projects hinge on receiving state assistance,” he said.

Vancouver Public Schools recently unveiled the plans for a new Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, featuring large shared classrooms and an outdoor classroom. The district is also developing plans for Vancouver iTech Preparatory, a science and technology-driven middle and high school that will be located on the WSU Vancouver campus.

“There’s opportunities for students to do hands-on projects, create and innovate based on the curriculum and what they’re learning, collaboration,” Horenstein said. “That’s a big theme and a big focus across all grades, and it’s starting to show in the actual physical design by creating spaces that support that kind of activity.”