The 31-page bill based on recommendations from the 21st Century School Facilities Commission has many elements of importance to county governments.
The Knott Commission bill, expecting to be a major piece of legislation in the 2018 Session of the General Assembly has now been introduced.
One of the main questions with regard to the Knott Commission’s recommendations were how its main suggestion – that the State conduct an assessment of every school facility in use and rank them – would affect the State’s priorities for school construction funding.
HB 1783 leaves that question for another day by establishing a work group to review the results of the first assessment and whether the results should be incorporated into school construction funding decisions. The 9-member Work Group on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities would be chaired by the State Superintendent of Schools and would include a representative of MACo.
Other elements of the bill particular interest to county governments include some of the following items.
The Interagency Committee on School Construction would provide technical assistance and support on the use of alternative financing, and develop a P3 pilot program to provide financial assistance, technical support to school boards that use alternative financing.
A newly created School Construction Technical and Innovative Office would develop template lease agreement for alternative financing, and explore incentives for alternative financing.
In addition, this legislation would allow county governments to hold title to school properties and would allow county governments to use design-construct-operate-maintain-finance arrangements.
There are several elements of this bill that aim to create efficiencies in school constriction. For starters, the bill would create a School Construction Technical and Innovative Office to explore and promote efficient, effective, economical and innovative ways to build schools.
Under this legislation, the Interagency Committee on School Construction would be asked to promote and explore:
- Technological advances for more efficient and innovative schools,
- Streamlined compliance review and project deliveries,
- Best use of buildings in districts with declining enrollment, and
- Regional school construction projects, including P3 zones and regional career and tech high schools.
Under this legislation, school boards would be allowed to use bulk purchasing for cost-effective procurement. School boards would also be required to develop preventative maintenance schedules subject to review by the Interagency Committee on School Construction and to report on compliance with maintenance schedules annually.
The legislation would provide regulatory relief in the following ways:
- School boards would be allowed to designate which schools must function as emergency shelters, rather than state-determination or a mandate that all schools must be shelters
- LEED silver certifications would not be required in new school construction if a state-based environmental standard is met. The bill directs to Green Building Council to develop such a standard.
- The number of State construction plan reviews would be limited, and the State and school boards would work together to establish a timeline for reviews going forward.
- School boards that demonstrate expertise and capacity to complete reviews within their own county may be exempted from State construction plan reviews.
- The IAC would study the effect of the school construction prevailing wage mandate.
School Construction Funding
The legislation sets out a goal for the State’s school construction funding and makes several changes that could affect school construction funding.
The legislation states that it is the intent of the General Assembly that:
- The State provides at least $400 million annually to public school construction, as practicable and within debt guidelines.
- The State sets a new annual funding goal following the initial statewide facility assessment.
The bill requires the Interagency Committee on School Construction to conduct a statewide facilities assessment, create and maintain a cloud-based integrated master facility asset library, and rank each public school facility using an facility index.
Other elements of the bill that could have an effect on school construction funding include that the bill:
- Creates a revolving loan fund to assist county governments in need of a loan to forward fund school construction projects
- Restricts costs eligible for State funding to items or systems with a median useful life of 15 years
- Requires the Interagency Committee on School Construction to establish incentive programs for Net-Zero school buildings and the use of prototype school designs
- Requires the Interagency Committee on School Construction to review costs eligible for state school construction funding and recommend changes, including making project design costs eligible.
- Requires the Interagency Committee on School Construction to update the state-local cost share amounts every two years.
- Sets up a work group to review the State’s design standards and guidelines, and make recommendations for changes to the State’s square footage allocations used in determining state school construction funding.
For more information, see HB 1783.