IAC Releases Maintenance Report; Workgroup Moves Toward Pilot Program

The Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC) approved the FY 2019 Maintenance of Maryland’s Public School Buildings Report on September 19, 2019 and the Report has since been published. Maintenance, as the report states, is critical to extending facility life and keeping ongoing operating costs down. Maintenance costs are generally 100% the responsibility of county governments, and school boards differ in their maintenance programs, some developing highly successful and cost-saving models.

***The following article contains draft language that may not be incorporated into the final recommendations****

Last week, the IAC Work Group on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities met to continue discussion of the proposed assessment category weighting. Robert Gorrell, the Executive Director of the Interagency Commission on School Construction, also led Work Group members through feedback letters the Work Group had received from local education agencies (LEAs).

Maryland Superintendent Karen Salmon, who is also the Chair of the Work Group, began by acknowledging that there has been “concern that we are going to throw out the normal processes of allocating money for schools and all of a sudden change over to a brand new system without any building or thought of whether that makes sense.” She explained that this is not happening, they are not changing the particular CIP model, but possibly conducting something more like a Pilot Program. Gorrell agreed, adding that the CIP Program is well rooted, works for local priorities, and will continue.

The CIP and Existing Programs would remain essentially as is, with local priorities, to determine what to spend on money on (systemic projects). If additional funds (blue arrow, right side) are appropriated, the MDCI Pilot Program will be new funding that will identify high need facilities. If there is no new money, Gorrell explained, the other recommendation (orange arrow, right side) is that no more than 10% be carved off of the existing CIP Program to fund a Pilot Program. Superintendent Salmon again clarified that all the weights and categories determined will only be used towards the Pilot Program.

Gorrell presented a new weighting system as updated due to feedback from the LEAs. Updates to the chart show the categories listed in order of weight and a new scale of weighting for the category “Beyond Expected Life.” After continued discussions, this sheet will be updated again for the next meeting on October 7, to include separate categories for items such as HVAC, technology infrastructure, and portables.

Another discussion revolved around accessibility to LEA data on facility conditions. It was determined that each LEA would have a password for their data, but the facility condition data would be available for statewide projection to be able to understand how many dollars over how many years are needed to update all schools and keep them at an adequate level. The index would be published once a year.

While there was much talk on the consideration of how the relative condition of public school facilities within the educational facilities sufficiency standards, there was no consensus determined. The Work Group was provided with a set of potential solutions listed as (1) adopting a system to prioritize facilities needs on a statewide basis, (2) adopting a system to rank and prioritize facilitates on a countywide level only, or (3) adopting a system to prioritizing facilities needs by category. Much of the Work Group seemed to be in agreement that it needed to be a hybrid answer and therefore IAC staff will go back to re-think solutions.

Lastly, the Work Group discussed the idea of how the assessment results should be incorporated into State decisions about school-construction funding. The group agreed on the creation of a pilot program (using new funding or no more than 10% of available School Construction funding) to prioritize State funding to the highest needs, as measured by the assessment. There will be no specifics added (categorical issues, incentives, etc.) until the results of the assessment are in.By adopting this recommendation, the Work Group would not be eliminating the potential solution of allocating funds through additional funding programs for systemic needs to compare and fun projects across the state.

Meeting materials will be posted here as they become available.