The flood of new school construction and renovation projects of the past few years will likely slow to a trickle starting this school year.
The state has an upcoming moratorium on its reimbursement for building construction and renovation, which can be the difference between a project getting the green light or not.
The Department of Education sets aside about $300 million a year for Planning and Construction Workbook, often called PlanCon.
It's a lengthy process that involves schools submitting multiple plans and reports about their projects to justify the need and explain how they are being designed and built.
The payoff can be 30 percent to 40 percent reimbursement on a project on average, which can equal millions of dollars.
Deadline: Starting Oct. 1 and lasting at least until June 30, PlanCon will be off-limits for any new project, according to department spokesman Tim Eller. The decision was made as part of the state budget process.
If a district wants to have its project considered for reimbursement, it had better get the first phase of the application in by Sept. 30.
"Like many districts, we are really scrutinizing our facilities right now to see if there's anything we need," said South Eastern Superintendent Rona Kaufmann. "That 30 to 40 percent, that's a huge cost difference."
School board meetings often include references to parts of the PlanCon process, which are alphabetically lettered based on the stage.
The projects don't have to be large renovations or new construction. They can be something as simple as getting a new heating, ventilation and cooling system.
School districts got an early indication around February from Gov. Tom Corbett the moratorium was coming and were worried that ongoing projects would be included in the moratorium.
But lawmakers decided only to put a halt to reimbursements for new projects, Eller said.
Pushing: That's why South Western is pushing to get plans in for a "substantial renovation" at Baresville Elementary by the Oct. 1 deadline, said business manager Jeff Mummert. The district wants to make sure the project, which doesn't have a price tag yet, would be considered for reimbursement.
There is some mild concern, though, that the state will run out of its $300 million pot for reimbursements for projects that are wrapping up, said York Suburban business manager Dennis Younkin.
Districts don't get reimbursed until the end of construction. About 230 projects are in some stage of the PlanCon process right now, Eller said.
Business managers from York Suburban, Spring Grove and Southern said they don't have any projects on the horizon, so they aren't worried about the deadline.
Funding gone? The moratorium might never get lifted, though. The department is forming a committee to investigate whether to continue PlanCon in some form or at all.
"This gives breathing (room) for the state to look at -- should it be in the reimbursement business at all," Eller said.
That could include possibly shifting reimbursement dollars toward districts that have a tougher time getting local tax dollars to pay for renovations of older buildings, such as York City.
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Other PlanCon projects
If PlanCon funding were reduced or wouldn't return, recent York County school district history shows there could be a major impact on school board decision-making.
In Dover two years ago, Kralltown Elementary was only eligible for a minimal PlanCon reimbursement because it had few students, so the district decided to close the building rather than pay for nearly all the needed renovation. Dover did, though, renovate several other elementary schools that received major PlanCon reimbursement.
In York City in 2009, Davis, Jackson and McKinley elementaries were all dilapidated and being considered for renovations.
The administration and the board agreed right away to renovate Jackson and McKinley, as their PlanCon reimbursement amount would greatly reduce the cost.
But the Davis building, with its small class sizes, was eligible only for a fraction of what McKinley and Jackson elementary schools would be getting and would cost York City much more out of pocket.
The administration advised the board not to go forward with the renovation and close the school. Only a later change of heart by the school board to take on the renovation cost kept Davis open.