Major, Peifer Move to Address School Construction Funding Backlog
7/2/2014
HARRISBURG – Recognizing the strain it is placing on school districts across the state, lawmakers took several steps in recent weeks to rectify a backlog in state funding for school construction projects, said Reps. Sandra Major (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) and Mike Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne).

Locally, the Western Wayne School District has been waiting since 2011 to be reimbursed for a construction project it completed through the state Department of Education’s (PDE) PlanCon process. PlanCon, an acronym for “Planning and Construction Workbook,” is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for Commonwealth reimbursement.

“When a school district follows the PlanCon process, the state needs to live up to its end of the bargain, but that hasn’t been happening,” said Peifer. “It will take some time to clear out the backlog, but I believe we are finally moving in the right direction.”

Major agreed. “Resolving the problem with PlanCon requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses both funding issues and the cumbersome nature of the process itself. We are working at it from a couple different angles and are making significant progress.”

To help address immediate needs for funding, the state House included an additional $10 million for PlanCon projects, increasing the total appropriation to $306.2 million, a 3.4 percent increase in funding over last year.

Lawmakers are also set to vote Wednesday on the state’s Fiscal Code bill, which includes a provision that calls on PDE to distribute available construction reimbursement funding to more school districts by bumping down those districts that have approved projects but have failed to submit final documentation for payment. This action could free up as much as $70 million.

In early June, the state House, with Major’s and Peifer’s support, passed legislation to streamline and modernize the PlanCon program and ensure it is financially sustainable. The bill included the following elements:
• A new five-step, streamlined process of public school construction and reconstruction reimbursement which eliminates microfilm requirements, provides for automation where appropriate, and emphasizes maintenance and rehabilitation of existing school buildings to extend the life of buildings as an alternative to initiating costly projects for new buildings.
• A publicly accessible electronic database which provides information regarding school construction and reconstruction projects and charter lease reimbursements as a means of increasing public transparency in the reimbursement process.
• Completion of a statewide analysis of school facilities conducted by PDE to aid in future planning.
• Reimbursement eligibility for school construction and reconstruction projects that have been ineligible for reimbursement over the past couple of years.
• Elimination of specialized supplementary reimbursements for school construction and reconstruction projects that were underused yet costly for the Commonwealth.
• Lump sum reimbursement options for school construction and reconstruction projects that will allow school districts which participate to receive immediate and complete Commonwealth reimbursement at a reduced percentage so that districts can reduce long-term debt and interest payments, and so that the Commonwealth can use savings to fund new projects.
• Requirements for the submission of late and outstanding documentation for Commonwealth reimbursement of school construction and reconstruction projects that will allow PDE to use up to $70 million of unclaimed reimbursement. (This measure was included in the Fiscal Code bill, House Bill 278.)
• Refinancing of school construction and reconstruction projects that will help school districts reduce long-term debt and interest payments.

House Bill 2124 is awaiting action in the state Senate.

Representative Sandra Major
111th District
Representative Mike Peifer
139th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
(717) 772-9846
phippler@pahousegop.com  
RepPeifer.com
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