Money to Build

The economy has had a detrimental impact on school and university budgets, forcing deep cuts in staff, programs and operating funds. But when it comes to capital expenditures, education institutions are finding that money to build is readily available.

Buoyed by a successful year at the polls, schools and universities are benefiting from strong state and community support to fund construction and repair of facilities. Whether by court mandate (or the threat of legal action), rising enrollment, need to repair existing facilities or desire to provide improved learning environments, construction spending is at record levels — and bond issues to build and repair facilities continue to be passed.

Of the $44.78 billion in K-12 bond issues proposed in 2002, $37.58 billion worth of new funding was passed — resulting in an almost 84 percent approval rating. Led by a massive statewide issue in California ($13 billion), schools throughout the nation are finding that voters will support carefully planned and detailed construction programs.

In keeping with the theme of this issue, here are the top 10 school bond issues passed this year (by local governments):

  1. Los Angeles (Calif.) Unified School District: $3.35 billion.

  2. Dallas (Texas) Independent School District: $1.41 billion.

  3. Houston (Texas) Independent School District: $808.6 million.

  4. San Jose (Calif.) Unified School District: $429 million.

  5. Columbus (Ohio) School District: $391 million.

  6. Garland (Texas) Independent School District: $385 million.

  7. Richland County (S.C.) School District: $381 million.

  8. San Juan (Calif.) Unified School District: $350 million.

  9. Bellevue (Wash.) School District: $324 million.

  10. Katy (Texas) Independent School District: $315.6 million.

And construction spending is projected to remain strong. According to American School & University's most recent Official Education Construction Report, approximately $169 billion will be spent through 2004 (including 2002-year spending) on new, retrofit and addition construction.

The focus by states and local communities on addressing the nation's growing education facilities needs is a welcome sign — and will go a long way in ensuring that this and future generations of children are provided safe, healthy and effective learning environments.


SCORECARD

850
Number of ballot questions, totaling $44.78 billion, state and local governments proposed for K-12 construction and repair in 2002.

529
Number of bond issues, totaling $37.58 billion, approved by voters for K-12 construction and repair in 2002.

83.9
Percentage of the dollar-total submitted that state and local voters approved in 2002 bond referenda.

13
Amount (in $ billions) of a statewide bond referendum passed in California in November, the largest issue proposed — and passed — in 2002.

7
Number of school districts in Texas and California that passed bond issues in 2002 that were among the 10 largest.

675
Amount (in $ millions) of the largest bond issue defeated in 2002 (North East (Texas) Independent School District).

Source: The Bond Buyer

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