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PSBA applauds legislation to modernize school construction reimbursement process
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) applauds the passage of Senate Bill 700, legislation to update and improve the process for state reimbursement of public school construction projects, and urges Gov. Wolf to sign the bill into law.
The legislation incorporates the recommendations of the bipartisan Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee to address concerns over the approval process, known as PlanCon. School districts have sought changes to the outdated procedures that were established in the 1970s and the issues and delays they caused. Problems were compounded in 2016 when the state implemented a moratorium on acceptance of school projects for reimbursement, leaving school districts and local taxpayers with the sole responsibility to finance renovation and construction projects.
“The current PlanCon process is burdensome, expensive and needlessly complicated for school districts. Along with the lack of state funding, these overly complicated requirements have caused major delays in moving school construction projects forward. Pennsylvania is at an important juncture in addressing both of these problems, and Senate Bill 700 is a positive step in solving this two-fold problem,” said PSBA Chief Executive Officer Nathan G. Mains.
PSBA is grateful for the efforts of Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh) to champion efforts to craft legislation that addresses the recommendations in four critical areas: simplifying the administrative process, recognizing high-performance building standards, creating a program for smaller maintenance and modernization projects that include a special set-aside for school safety needs, and establishing a new reimbursement formula.
“The need to address aging and inadequate school facilities is critical. We know schools are struggling with financing projects to fix leaking roofs, failing mechanical and electrical systems, and crumbling infrastructure,” Mains said. “Schools are also undertaking necessary projects to address overcrowded classrooms and to enhance school security issues.
“We believe the state was long overdue in the need to address the problems associated with the approval of school construction projects, and we urge Gov. Wolf to sign Senate Bill 700. Moving forward, we hope that the General Assembly will build upon this legislation that provides for a more modern, simplified process for state reimbursement to school districts. The next step is for the state to re-establish annual funding to make this program financially sustainable. We need to ensure that all school districts can provide appropriate school facilities and safe and secure learning environments for their students,” Mains added.
PSBA is a nonprofit statewide association of public school boards, pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for the public schools of the commonwealth. Founded in 1895, PSBA was the first school boards association established in the United States.