Summer Brings New Rules in School Construction

The General Assembly passed landmark legislation in school construction this year, which included many reforms counties have sought for years. With the law in effect June 1, which county will be the first to make a move?

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School is almost out for summer. While students are on vacation, many school systems dig in to facility updates and renovations for the coming year and review long-range plans for school construction.

The earth is shifting below those school systems, this summer, with new rules in school construction, passed by the General Assembly this year, having taken effect on June 1. The 21st Century School Facilities Act makes many changes to school construction law. One of the areas of change is in the State’s rules for private-public partnerships.

Public-private partnerships in school construction have long been an area of interest of county governments. Counties struggle to ensure that school system needs are met, even as costs are increasing and the amount of available State funding is limited.

P3s may hold promise as a cost-effective method for school construction, a way to stretch public funding to meet the needs of Maryland’s students. While current State law already allows P3s for school construction, very few have gotten off the ground. MACo has pointed to hurdles in state law that make these arrangements difficult to achieve, and has urged State support for piloting these programs.

The legislation the passed this year, which was developed through a Commission that included county government representation, answers many of those concerns, by expanding authorities for county governments and school boards, reducing regulation of alternative financing, and creating a P3 pilot program.

MACo has assembled is a chart describing some of changes in school construction public-private partnership laws that will take effect June 1, 2018. View the chart of changes to alternative financing that will begin on June 1.

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Excerpt from MACo’s chart on changes to alternative financing laws that took effect June 1.

MACo is currently working with one county government seeking to employ some of these new provisions for upcoming construction projects, and will continue coverage as counties take advantage of their new flexibility.

For more information about the bill, see The 21st Century School Facilities Act and the Department of Legislative Services’ fiscal and policy analysis.

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