Amended School Construction Bill Moving Through Senate

The amended Built to Learn Act would still drive an additional $2.2 billion in school construction funding, by leveraging casino “lockbox” revenues for bonds but makes substantial changes.

HB 1 – Built to Learn Act of 2020 would create a large new funding program for school construction. The 2020 bill pulls recommendations from the 2019 Workgroup on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities.

The Built to Learn Act has moved out of the House of Delegates and into the Senate and has gone though many proposed amendments, some of which have been accepted and are explained below.

Amendment 1

Strikes language giving a county school board authority to appeal the Maryland Stadium Authority’s decision to authorize a county board of education to contract for, manage, and oversee projects funded from the supplemental public school construction financing and facilities funds in the project memorandum of understanding.

Amendment 2

Strikes language that states that the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC) shall adopt regulations for the Public School Construction Program for projects located in counties with less than 20,000 full-time equivalent enrolled students.

Amendment 3

Establishes that a county is eligible for an adjustment to the local cost-share for school construction projects if the county’s median family income is below the bottom quartile in the State and the state and local cost-share formula is 50% state and 50% local. If this criteria is met, the local cost-share of a school construction project shall be reduced to equal the local cost-share of the adjacent county that is less than 50%, but closest to 50%. The state cost-share will then increase by a percentage that is equal to the reduction.

Amendment 4

Changes the language concerning the initial school facility assessment. Originally the bill stated the time frame for the IAC to adopt regulations establishing the use of the facility assessment results in annual school construction funding decisions. While this language is left in the bill, there amended language adds that the Workgroup on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities shall consider how the condition of school facilities within the sufficiency standards and facility condition index should be prioritized, taking into account local priorities and in consultation with local jurisdictions. Also states that during the consideration process, the Workgroup in conjunction with the IAC will evaluate each school’s facilities and prioritize building systems that are furthest beyond the useful life of the system.

Amendment 5

States that the allocation for Baltimore City for a project at a school within an area designated for grant funding through the Choice Neighborhood Program may only be provided if the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City secure at least $30 million in additional revenues for the project. Also specifies that in Baltimore City, the bond proceeds may be used for furniture, fixtures, equipment, design, and the staff necessary to manage school construction projects.

Amendment 6

This amendment changes the process of allocation of grant awards under the Capital Grant Program for Local School Systems With Significant Enrollment Growth or Relocatable Classrooms, which is a program to provide grants for public school construction in local school systems that are experiencing significant enrollment growth or a significant number of relocatable classrooms. The amended language states that the first $40 million of grants will be distributed based on each county board’s proportionate share of the total full-time equivalent enrollment of county boards eligible to participate in the program.

After the allocation of the $40 million, a process will be developed to allocate the remaining grant awards based on each eligible county board’s proportionate share of percentage of enrollment growth above the statewide average percentage.

Amendment 7

Adds language to the effect that the IAC shall provide funds to projects from the Supplemental Public School Construction Financing and Facilities Funds to reimburse eligible costs for projects that begin construction on or after June 1, 2020.

Amendment 8

Adds that there shall be an evaluation of the life cycle costs of public school buildings over a 50-year period including an evaluation of the cost and efficiency of using alternative energy systems (geothermal, solar, wind, etc) compared to a traditional energy system. There will also need to be an analysis on energy consumption and systems replacement for each major piece of equipment in certain systems (cooling, hearing, hot water, lighting, ventilation, etc.). The evaluation that is required shall be submitted to the General Assembly and the IAC or Maryland Stadium Authority shall provide annual updates.

Amendment 9

Adds language defining construction material and public school facility. States that the sale and use tax will not apply to the sale of construction material if it was purchased solely for use of the construction or redevelopment of a public school facility and the buyer provides the vendor will evidence of eligibility for the exemption issued by the Comptroller.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2020 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.