School construction funding/PlanCon process
Now is the time to restart the state’s reimbursement program for school construction and renovation projects. School districts have an obligation to provide facilities that are constructed, furnished 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, inadequate or nonexistent state funding for reimbursement has caused major delays in moving school construction projects forward. Act 25 of 2016 authorized a program to enable the state to reimburse school districts for projects already approved. However, no state funding has been provided in subsequent years for the continuation of the program, and there has been no reimbursement for any district that was not already in the approval pipeline. A moratorium that took effect in 2016 on accepting school projects for reimbursement has left districts left to carry the full financial burden.
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.
In addition, the reimbursement approval process, known as PlanCon, is in dire need of streamlining and modernization. Last year the state Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee issued a report that addresses many of the issues and concerns identified with the outdated procedures under the PlanCon program.
PBSA believes that now is the time for legislators to institute a new PlanCon program that will serve schools, students and communities for years to come.