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State to roll out database to track school repair backlog

HONOLULU — The state Department of Education is rolling out an online database to track the estimated $868 million backlog of repair and maintenance projects in the public school system.

The state plans to launch the database early next year to show when money is appropriated for projects, when it is allocated, when contracts are awarded and how much of the contract has been paid.

Hawaii schools have about 3,800 pending projects that are broken down into 11 categories. Roofing projects make up the biggest category at $196 million followed by grounds projects at $185 million, and then mechanical, electrical and plumbing projects at $129 million.

School officials had told state lawmakers at a budget briefing in January that the backlog was $293 million, decreasing from the $392 million in 2010.

The actual size of the backlog was a shock, said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

“To their credit, they (Department of Education staff) came almost immediately and disclosed the misinformation,” Luke said. “They said they would work with us to correct this wrong. Clearly, they understand that this was a significant error in their approach.”

The extent of the backlog was revealed earlier this year following a review by a new leadership team, said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent for school facilities and support services. Project information was scattered and the department lacked an automated system to track funded projects.

“It took us going through our entire system to get this information in one place,” Carlson said.

The online database includes all capital improvement and repair and maintenance projects. A public version is planned to be launched next school year.

“Any of our legislators, any of our board members, any of our school administrators will have access to this information,” Carlson said. “It’s a much more transparent system. People will have the ability to pull that information anytime.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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