Kihei high school project gets $65 million in House Finance Committee budget

The House Finance Committee has included $65 million for the Kihei high school in the 2015 fiscal year of the state’s biennium, an amount that’s half of what Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the state Department of Education and South Maui’s lawmakers have sought to complete the project all at once.

While South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing and South and West Maui Sen. Roz Baker pledged Saturday to seek the full $130 million in funding as the budget bill, known as House Bill 200, makes its way to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The House action, though, makes it appear less likely that the school will be a “design-build project” and will instead be constructed in traditional phases.

House Speaker Joe Souki, who represents Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala and Waikapu, said via email Saturday that he doesn’t think it will be a problem for the Kihei high school to get the $65 million appropriation for the school’s plans, design and construction.

“Schools are normally funded in phases,” he said. It’s “impossible to spend $130 million in one year.”

Souki pointed out that permits need to be processed, the land prepared, bids sent out and received, and so on.

“We’re only at the starting gate,” he said. “What it does show is a commitment from all parties – the governor, DOE and the Legislature.”

Baker said she was pleased as well with the House Finance Committee action, calling it “an excellent start.”

“I think it’s great that the House included $65 million in House budget bill for Kihei high school,” she said. “That’s the first time the House has put any funds for the high school in their budget. Kaniela did well.

“I’m hoping the Senate will add on to that amount to get us closer to getting the school built,” she said. “Whether the school is built as a design-build project or the more traditional way, the important thing is to get the construction phase started. I will work with my colleagues to keep the funding of this much-needed project on the table.”

Ing, a freshman, serves on the House Finance Committee. Including the high school project in the House version of the budget, even if half-funded, marks “a huge milestone in getting this project off the ground,” he said.

To read more of this story, see the Sunday issue of The Maui News.