OLYMPIA — State lawmakers have approved a school seismic safety grant program for building upgrades but have yet to set a funding level until setting a budget amount this week as the legislative session draws to a close.
House and Senate budgets contain funding for the seismic-safety grant program at different levels, with negotiators from both chambers completing talks today and making the supplemental capital budget public today or Tuesday, House Capital Budget Committee Chair Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend said Sunday.
The program is predicated on recipient school districts providing matching funds.
All school districts in Clallam and Jefferson counties would qualify under thresholds for earthquake hazard risks.
Tharinger, a 24th District Democrat representing Clallam and Jefferson counties and half of Grays Harbor County, said he is prohibited from discussing funding details until negotiators reach an overall budget agreement.
“We wrapped everything up this morning,” he said Sunday. “I think we’re OK. We’ll work [Monday] morning on finalizing it and handshake on it and everything.”
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction spent $2 million in school district seismic upgrade projects over the last four years although there was $42 million to $45 million available in the biennial budget, Tharinger said.
State Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles praised passage of the seismic-safety grant program.
“Everyone is concerned about the safety of our schools,” he said.
“It’s a bipartisan issue. Everyone is concerned and wants to make progress.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.