"We've been waiting on LAUSD and hope they have finally put together the paperwork we need to save this proven job training program."
By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/14ryiOW
Arturo Sanchez, left, Stephen Miller and Allison Retig look at an inspection plate that allows mechanics to see the cables inside the wing of this Cessna 150. Students enrolled at the North Valley Occupational Center Aviation Mechanic School at Van Nuys Airport get an education in airframe and power plant mechanics on Feb. 10, 2011. After they conclude the training program, graduates are virtually guaranteed jobs. Van Nuys, CA. (File photo by John McCoy/staff photographer)
1/28/2013 07:27:39 :: Los Angeles Unified would have enough money to continue operating its embattled mechanics school at Van Nuys Airport if the federal government agrees to slash the rent to $1 a year, according to a new business plan.
The rent on the 3-acre site is set to double July 1 to $12,000 a month, which district officials say would force them to close the Aviation Center or relocate it to a smaller location. Even at $6,000 a month, the school district would be hard-pressed to continue the program, which has operated for 40 years out of a hangar off Hayvenhurst Avenue.
But a budget compiled at the request of city and airport officials, who are working with LAUSD to salvage the popular adult school program, shows the center would be financially viable if the Federal Aviation Administration lets the airport cut a deal for free rent.
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"Once the burden of the lease is removed from the budget, operational expenses and salaries are well within amounts provided by the district," says a letter by Michael Romero, chief of the district's Adult Education Division.
Based on costs for the current fiscal year, Romero estimates salaries and benefits of about $270,000 for the center's principal, three teachers and a custodian, plus $80,000 for instructional materials and operating expenses.
With its 100 students paying $900 a year in fees - and without any rent - the cost for the district pencils out to roughly $260,000 annually.
"This is an amazing facility, and the perfect example of the connection between education and jobs," said school board member Nury Martinez, who has been working to get the proposal before the FAA.
She's written a letter of support to Los Angeles World Airports, which is putting together its own proposal for a lease waiver that will be submitted to the FAA.
Local officials are hoping the federal agency will sign off on the deal in time to avert the rent hike.
"It's frustrating that we're not able to give students an answer as to whether the school will still be there next year," Martinez said.
The Aviation Center is ranked among the nation's best, a two-year program in which students prepare for FAA certification for aircraft maintenance work. Many of its graduates get entry-level jobs paying $50,000 a year.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti has taken the lead at City Hall, in supporting the center, sponsoring a motion asking LAWA to provide free rent for the school district.
"We've been waiting on LAUSD and hope they have finally put together the paperwork we need to save this proven job training program," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said.