Four York County school districts submitted a handful of the dozens of applications the state got just before its moratorium kicked in on consideration for construction reimbursement.
With no guarantee that moratorium will be lifted anytime soon, with no requirement the construction plans be implemented, and with reimbursement a near-guarantee if schools follow all protocol, district officials said they figured it was worth the hassle.
"It's at least getting our foot in the door," said Northern York School District Superintendent Eric Eshbach.
The plans are part of PlanCon, an intensive, lengthy process by which districts get renovation or construction plans approved by the state and then are eligible for partial reimbursement. It can mean millions of dollars for districts.
But the state decided that as of Oct. 1, they would not be accepting anymore PlanCon applications this budget year while they review the process.
That led to a rush of PlanCon applications in a short time frame, a total of 87 submitted between July 1 and Sept. 30. The state normally gets about six applications a month and about 75 a year, according to Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller. Schools got an indication months ago a moratorium was looming, and then more recently a firm date of Oct. 1 to submit applications for consideration.
West York Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said her district had officials convene the Sunday night right before the Monday deadline just to get their applications in.
The other schools among the last-second PlanCon applications:
* Northern York: Dillsburg Elementary (Add eight classrooms and facility upgrades; cost estimate: $9 million)
* South Eastern: Stewartstown, Fawn Area and Delta-Peach Bottom elementaries (Renovations; cost to be determined)
* South Western: Baresville Elementary (Extensive facility upgrades including roof replacement; cost estimate: $10 million)
* West York: Lincolnway and Trimmer elementaries (Security upgrades). A major high school renovation and additions to Wallace Elementary and the administration building, not included on the state list, also are being considered, Lonardi said. The total estimate for all projects is $47.5 million.
None of the districts are obligated to complete the projects. But if they make it far enough through the PlanCon process this budget year - step H in the alphabetical process, more than halfway - they will be guaranteed partial reimbursement, according to Eller.
Reimbursement rates vary widely based on type of project, with several of the York County projects in the 10 percent reimbursement bracket.
The state has $296 million set aside this year for reimbursements, and any district already promised money will get it, Eller said.
The issue could be subsequent years.
Eller said a committee examining PlanCon will see if there's a better way to go through the reimbursement process or if the state should get out of the reimbursement game altogether.
"Everything is on the table at this time," Eller said.
If PlanCon isn't funded next year, districts not yet approved for reimbursement at that point would be out of luck until the state changes its mind. Local taxpayers would be footing the difference in the meantime while schools wait it out.
"Even if it's a one-year moratorium, that scares me about what might happen in the future," Eshbach said.
"I may just have to wait 2 or 3 years to get (reimbursement)," said South Western business manager Jeff Mummert. In South Western's case, that could be $2 million.
Baresville Elementary, built in 1955, is in dire need of upgrades, and so renovation costs were looming regardless.
"We're going to have to pay it anyway. We're trying to save the taxpayers a little money," Mummert said.
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