School construction funding
School districts have an obligation to provide facilities that are constructed and maintained to meet the educational and safety needs of their students and staff. In turn, the state has a responsibility to help districts pay for needed construction and renovation projects. However, school districts have faced a two-fold obstacle in meeting their obligation — inadequate or nonexistent state funding, and overly-complicated requirements for the approval process for school construction projects (known as PlanCon).
Through the advocacy efforts of PSBA and school officials across the state, legislation was enacted on July 2, 2019, that modernizes the PlanCon process. The new Act 70 incorporates the recommendations of the State Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee 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. PSBA had a seat on the Advisory Committee and was active in developing the recommendations that are included in Act 70.
However, state funding for reimbursement remains a problem. A moratorium that began in 2016 and continues today on accepting school projects for reimbursement has left districts and taxpayers left to carry the full financial burden. The next critical step is for the state to re-establish annual funding to make the PlanCon program financially sustainable.
The need to address aging, and inadequate school facilities is critical:
- Nearly one-third of school district buildings are in need of replacement or major renovation.
- The biggest obstacle to construction and renovation projects is financial considerations.
- As a result, more than half of districts postponed maintenance and renovation projects.