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Funding structure delays Maui school build

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WAILUKU >> Some Maui parents cheered the Legislature’s approval of $130 million for a new high school last year, believing it meant a new school would open by 2016.

But due to how the funding was structure, the state Department of Education said the school will have to be built in phases and won’t open until perhaps 2020.

At a community meeting in September, department officials said they would be able to access only $30 million next year, the Maui News reported.

The department said the money was split between $30 million bond funds, which became available at the start of the 2015 fiscal year in July, and $100 million in a school facilities improvement fund. But department spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said by email that lawmakers did not put extra money into the fund, meaning “there was no money to back up the commitment.”

State Budget Director Kalbert Young said the department would need to use money previously appropriated for projects “that were not executed or to be executed.”

“Technically, the $100 million is there, but (the department) had to make a decision as to whether they could make the $100 million available,” Young said.

South and West Maui Sen. Roz Baker, who has pushed for funds for the high school since 2004, said the department allowed hundreds of millions of dollars in the facilities fund to lapse — money that she said could have been used for the high school.

Baker said she will not lobby for more funds until the department uses the $30 million to begin initial site work.

The department has indicated that it will request release of the $30 million early next year and plans to request needed future funds in chunks, a scenario that Dela Cruz said was financially feasible.

Work on the first phase of the project is expected to begin during the summer of 2016, with completion of that phase projected from 2018 to 2020.

Once the first phase is completed, it is expected the school could be opened to accommodate 800 students and 120 staff members.

The second and final phase, which would be developed as enrollment grows, would increase capacity to 1,650 students and 180 staff members.

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