Funding Moratorium Clouds School Building Future

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A $300-million-a-year state program that helps school districts pay to construct or renovate buildings will soon be closed to new projects, at least temporarily, as state officials decide if it needs to be changed or eliminated.

Some districts are rushing to get their plans into the pipeline before the October start of a nine-month moratorium that was quietly enacted along with the state budget earlier this summer.

School districts already under financial pressure from growing pension obligations and state funding cuts are eyeing the moratorium warily, concerned that it could be the first step toward eventual elimination of the so-called PlanCon reimbursement.

PlanCon refers to the Education Department’s “Planning and Construction Workbook,” a complicated review that runs from justifying the need for a project to designing it, acquiring the land, building it and paying for it.

“We’re really in this incredible squeeze because we’re just trying to get through operational costs, much less construction costs,” said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. “Without some state support, those building projects are going to be more and more and more difficult.”

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett first raised the idea of a moratorium when he proposed a 2012-13 budget in February, but what eventually passed was scaled back so that it did not take effect until October and covered only new projects, not those already in the PlanCon pipeline.

Click here to read the full article published on  PhillyBurbs.com (August 13, 2012).

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