New Orleans school rebuilding plan faces financial shortfall

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Almost four years after receiving a $1.8 billion FEMA settlement to reconstruct public schools damaged in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has completed 11 new schools and renovated seven more, of a planned 82, the legislative auditor's office said Monday. The report confirms, however, that the city's two school systems do not have enough money to complete the plan.

As of March 31, the two systems had spent less than half their FEMA money, but their projected plans outpaced the remaining money. The state-run Recovery School District had $644 million left in the bank but $751 million of projects on the drawing board. The Orleans Parish school system had $206 million left to spend, with an anticipated $250 million in construction costs coming up. Two Orleans system refurbishments, minor renovations focusing on the building exteriors, are on hold because there's not enough money.

A June report from the two system superintendents put the combined budget gap as high as $330 million, saying some supplemental funding sources such as tax credits are shaky. Furthermore, New Orleans needs more elementary school space than currently planned. The two systems plan to present suggested changes to their master facilities plan later this month.

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