Los Alamos Schools get boost from state

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By Roger Snodgrass

Los Alamos Public School District has qualified for more than $7.6 million in state funds from the Public School Capital Outlay Council for design and construction projects at the high school.

The district will receive $495,000 in state funds for planning and design to renovate the high school, the Public School Facilities Authority announced last week.

Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval, Santa Fe, said the district met the standards of a priority-based funding formula to qualify for the award.

The award was part of $131 million awarded to 24 projects in 15 school districts by the council. The state finances these projects by issuing bonds on severance tax revenue from oil and gas extraction.

The lion’s share of the funds, $7,126,840 are for educational specifications, planning and design to replace the school’s B, C and D wings, along with renovations and improvements for the media center and gymnasium.

In an interview Monday, John Wolfe, LAPS business manager, said this share of funds would require another step.

“We have to go back in the spring for this. They have it set aside as far as the construction dollars, but we’ll have to go back and make another presentation to the Public Schools Capital Outlay Council in the spring,” Wolfe said.

He noted that the high school projects would advance with or without additional state funds.

Under the process, all districts are eligible for state funds, but voters must approve property taxes to raise a matching amount.

The level of the match varies with each school district.

The matching formula takes into consideration the assessed values of properties in the district, property tax rates and other factors that affect the school districts’ ability to pay for construction, according to an announcement by the facilities authority.

“Voters have approved sufficient funding to go forward,” Wolfe said. “But this would allow us to stretch our bond dollars.”

Wolfe said the Los Alamos schools district expected to award a contract for an architect soon.

“Then we should be able to start the design process which will involve the whole community,” he said.

Wolfe said this was the first time the district had made an application in this funding category.

“We were hopeful, but didn’t know till last week what the final outcome would be,” he said. “And although it requires another level of approval in the spring, the council did indicate that they think they have the money for all the schools, he added.

The construction project is expected to start next June and last for 18 months.