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Brown Announces Additional Audit Requirements for Prop. 51 School Facilities Bond Funding

January 16, 2017

As part of his announcement of his January budget proposal on January 10, Governor Jerry Brown indicated that he has directed his administration to pursue additional audits covering the issuance of $9 billion in school facilities bonds that California voters approved by passing Proposition 51 in the November 2016 election.

Brown indicated that his move is intended to level the playing field and give less affluent districts an equal chance at the new state money for school construction and modernization. Proposition gives the upper hand to wealthy campuses, Brown maintained, because “It says, ‘Hey, if you’ve got your application ready, you’ll be first in line,’ and that will favor the more affluent and the more resourced districts.” So Brown has ordered additional audits in attempt to make sure that less affluent districts that will likely move more slowly will still have a chance at the Proposition 51 funds. At his budget unveiling on January 10, Brown told reporters he would try to “make it work in the fairest way possible.”

Reporter Christopher Caldego of the Sacramento Bee posted an article about the Governor’s move on January 11, writing:

Gov. Jerry Brown, who last year registered deep skepticism about the $9 billion statewide school construction bond, is withholding the proceeds until the Legislature approves more rigorous independent auditing procedures.

The Democratic governor exercised his power over the purse by issuing a proposed budget this week that dangles nearly $300 million from bond sales but requires front-end grant agreements spelling out the basic terms, conditions and accountability measures for all K-12 applicants.

Voters in November passed Proposition 51, which was supported by real estate and development companies and top school officials, despite repeated criticism from the governor.

He had disparaged the bond as a “blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities.”

“We want to make sure that the rules, consistent with the bond act, will work to take care of those most in need,” he said.

Once a bond is authorized, the money doesn’t become available until bonds are sold, which for the state typically happens in the spring and fall each year. Brown’s budget anticipates going into the market this fall.

Some of 165 projects worth $370 million, previously reviewed by the Office of Public School Construction, cannot get the money until Brown’s conditions are met.

“The voters have spoken and 51 has passed,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown’s Department of Finance.

But “that doesn’t mean (Brown’s) concern over fiscal accountability on spending school bond funds is in any way lessened or diminished,” he added.

Bond supporters said this week that they didn’t anticipate significant delays in developing the Brown-required procedures. Dave Walrath, a veteran education lobbyist, called the requests “fairly straightforward,” adding that they could be expedited through the budget process. All of the language for related bills must be sent to the Legislature by Feb. 1.

To read the complete story from the Sacramento Bee, click here.

Source:  Sacramento Bee

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