The final report is released for the Commission Chair’s briefings for the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
The 21st Century School Facilities Commission (Knott Commission) final report has been released and the recommendations, at first glance, seem to be largely in line with the Commission’s prior discussions.
In the briefing for the House Appropriations Committee, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Committee, made opening remarks and stated that the Report would be put into bill form and could be a major piece of legislation to come out this year.
Martin Knott, Chair of the Commission, spoke of 4 needs in school construction:
- Flexibility for locals and streamlining processes;
- Incentives for positive construction practices;
- A focus for the role of the State on providing technical assistance to small school systems with fewer resources; and
- Transparency in existing facility conditions.
Knott also spoke about the need to prioritize school facilities that support educational goals, and emphasized the importance of the State remaining a strong partner in funding school construction.
The four areas described by Knott are generally aligned with MACo’s school construction advocacy. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates efforts to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools, and urges State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority.
During the briefing, Knott noted the Commission’s consensus on the recommendations. Delegate Ghrist also noted during the hearing that the Governor’s Office was fine with the final report’s recommendations.
One subject of the Commission’s discussions was alternative financing. As Knott said, the Commission took a long and hard look at this area.
MACo has advocated for alternative financing law reform to expand the tools available for counties and school boards as they seek the most effective options for school construction and renovation.
Included in the recommendations are several items for alternative financing. For example, the report recommends that the State:
- Explore the possibility of creating a school construction authority that includes members with expertise in school construction to accelerate State school construction funding and provide more flexibility for financing school construction projects;
- Provide technical assistance to help facilitate P3s, such as developing template lease agreements between developers and school systems;
- Encourage innovation through alternative financing by providing a financial incentive to assist one or more LEA(s) interested in pursuing alternative financing to cover the associated risks;
- Consider allowing school systems to enter into long-term lease agreements for school buildings;
- Explore the feasibility of regional (multi-district) school construction projects including regional P3 zones.