If Pennsylvania reimbursed every school district owed money for state-approved construction projects in one lump sum, the tab would amount to about $1.7 billion.
The past three state budgets have halted reimbursements for those projects, which could open up the state to lawsuits if the aid is not given in a timely manner, said Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township. But the representative said he hopes to get those reimbursements back on track with a bill that could change the way districts apply for and receive state aid for construction projects.
Grove said House Bill 2124, which was the topic of a public hearing earlier this month, would streamline the application process for schools seeking reimbursement from the state. It would also suggest schools prioritize remodeling over creating new buildings when possible, which Grove said could promote savings for the state.
School districts undergoing eligible construction projects, such as expansions because of increased enrollment, apply for reimbursements using the Planning and Construction Workbook, known as PlanCon.
Grove said the bill would streamline the PlanCon process from 11 steps to five, and would get rid of "archaic" requirements, such as the submission of plans and bid specifications on microfilm.
"Stuff like that drives me crazy," Grove said. "Obviously, we have a microfilm machine somewhere in the department that the state uses to analyze this stuff. But if it breaks down who do you call to fix that?"
Grove said revising some of the requirements by allowing for new technologies — such as submissions via email — will reduce the time burden on school districts and save state money at the same time.
Grove said he has worked with several interested parties to draft the bill, in an attempt to gain widespread support for the reform. Grove said those include representatives from the state Department of Education, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, among others.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.