School Construction Work Group Makes Major Decisions on Funding and Assessments, but Work Remains

The Workgroup on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities made major decisions on school construction and funding at its December 1 meeting, but work remains.

Among the decisions made were those involving the Revolving Loan Fund, cost share formulas, and school facilities assessments. These decisions come after months of meeting and deliberation.

The work group was created via legislation in 2021. It was tasked with evaluating multiple components of school construction projects and facilities conditions by the end of this year, but the process has been less than smooth.

Revolving Loan Fund

The work group was tasked with establishing and implementing the Revolving Loan Fund, which would allow local education agencies (LEAs) to forward fund school construction projects.

Among the decisions made, which Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and MACo advocated for:

  • Increasing funding for the program in the out years from the originally proposed $50 million, including an additional  $20.0 million in FY 24, and additional $10.0 million in FY 25 and FY 26;
  • Priority should be given to counties that have not forward funded in recent years and that have limited debt capacity;
  • Require repayment with no interest within five years of loan disbursement: Allow waivers from the five-year limit to counties that have not received sufficient State funding to repay the loans at the end of five years; and
  • To allow loan funds to also be available to support both Capital Improvement Program and Built to Learn projects.

Theses decisions on the Revolving Loan Fund — to be renamed to the Local Revolving Loan Fund — will be drafted into legislation and presented before the General Assembly for consideration in 2022.

Cost Share Formula

The work group also approved updates to the cost sharing formulas for Capital Improvement Projects and Built to Learn school construction.

Among the decisions made include:

  • A new component for Concentration of Poverty schools (by project) to increase State funding. Notably, only one county does not have a school that would qualify as 80% more of its students being impoverished.;
  • New components for incentives, such as achieving good or adequate maintenance-effectiveness assessment ratings and School Facility Assessment ratings of expected useful life at 100% or greater.; and
  • Capping the State share decrease at 5% for each 2-year cycle.

Note that the meeting materials (and image below) say these changes are to go into effect for FY 25/26, but the work group voted to make them effective in FY 23/34, in line with Built to Learn implementation.

School Facilities Assessments

The work group also made decisions regarding future school facilities assessments, the pilot of which was met with concerns about consistency and streamlining.

Among decisions made include a wide range of logistical points on how facilities assessments should be conducted, expanding data points collected on in school facilities assessment to include whether or not a facility has central air conditioning and/or heat, and identify and increasing collaboration with LEAs and the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC) to perform school facility assessments.

The work group is set to meet again on December 15, during which it will make further decisions on school assessments, including when construction prioritization should start to use assessment data. The group will also work through gross area baseline and enrollment decisions in the forthcoming meeting, both of which help determine the maximum amount of State funding for a capital school project.

Video of the December 1 meeting is available on the General Assembly’s YouTube channel.

The meeting agenda and materials are available online.

Read prior Conduit Street Blog coverage of the workgroup: