Calif., N.J. Schools See Construction Funding Boost

Sacramento, Calif. — State education agencies in California and New Jersey were recently awarded more than $675 million in school construction funds.
In Sacramento, the State Allocation Board announced that it has allocated $408 million in matching funds for 78 shovel-ready school construction projects in 42 school districts. These projects are expected to create more than 7,000 new jobs.
The funding was approved by the SAB under accelerated funding rules approved by the board in May. The program was created to give priority order to $408 million in available Proposition 1D funds, approved by California voters in 2006, to school projects that are ready to proceed with construction.
In order to qualify, participating school districts certified that within 90 days of receiving an apportionment, they would have local matching funds in hand, and at least half of their construction contracts in place. Matching funds typically equal 50 percent of construction costs.
School districts in financial hardship were also able to compete for the priority-ordered funding to purchase sites or begin design work.
If a district fails to begin construction within 90 days, the state will not release funds for the project and the district will be required to move to the back of the line behind other districts that are waiting funding from the state. The result is that the district could potentially wait months to years before receiving funding from the state again.
The SAB also took action recently to ensure that certain districts with imminent health and safety threats would receive the highest priority for future funding when additional cash is available to make apportionments.
Major projects allocated in this most recent round of funding include $59.5 million for new construction within the Desert Sands Unified School District; $68.5 million to relieve overcrowding within the Lennox School District; and $55 million to relieve overcrowding within the Santa Ana Unified School District.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced that 177 schools districts statewide are eligible for approximately $270 million in funds.
The state funds will support the cost of 740 capital maintenance and construction projects. Including state and local contributions, the 740 eligible projects are estimated to have a value of $697 million. The projects will create as many as 6,000 jobs, according to New Jersey’s Department of Education.
“This funding for school improvements will help school districts keep their facilities properly maintained and ease the burden on local property taxpayers,” says Bret Schundler, New Jersey’s education commissioner.
The state-funded grants represent at least 40 percent of eligible costs for projects in the Regular Operating Districts. An ROD is any New Jersey district not designated as one of the state’s 31 special-needs school districts. State grants are contingent on voter or budget approval of the remaining cost for local school districts.
Grants are approved by the DOE in fixed annual allocations based on a prioritization process that considers critical needs, such as health, safety, special education, renewal of existing buildings and overcrowding. Types of construction include capital maintenance, renovation, expansion and new facilities.
Major awards in New Jersey’s most recent allotment include $19 million for major renovations at Brick Township High School, $4.5 million for the addition of 17 classrooms and other spaces to Kingsway Regional High School and $7 million for an HVAC replacement project at Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District.
New Jersey’s Schools Development Authority currently has a portfolio of 1,126 ongoing grant projects in the RODs.