Broken Maintenance Strategy at Ed Department

The Hawaii Department of Education and University of Hawaii need to change what they're doing if repair and maintenance backlogs are ever going to shrink, legislators said in a briefing Thursday morning. In other words, they need to find other ways to pay for fixes.

Until now, both the Department of Education and the university have relied almost exclusively on the Legislature to fund regular upkeep of buildings and grounds. The education department's backlog is $392 million, and the university's is about $308 million. (Another $26 million in university repairs are paid for with university special funds, which legislators are threatening to eliminate.)

UH has requested $64 million per year for the next six years to eliminate its backlog. The Department of Education has requested $355 million for capital improvements next year, some of which would help whittle down the department's maintenance backlog. But with the Legislature struggling with how to handle a budget deficit of $844 million during the next two years, it seems unlikely either department will get all the money it wants.

"At some point, repair and maintenance has got to become part of the regular operating budget, otherwise we'll be playing catch-up forever," said Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Ige after absorbing information from UH's vice president for capital improvement. "The sooner you can figure out a way to fund it on a regular basis, the better off we'll all be."

The chairman later criticized the education department's method of prioritizing capital improvements, saying it doesn't ensure equitable facilities among schools.

The department uses a matrix that maps projects by priority, from health, safety and security-related projects (top priority) to repairs in state and district offices (bottom priority).

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