Grove’s School District Renovation Funding Reform Plan Focus of House Hearing
4/1/2014
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s students hoping to maximize their potential in the classroom need to have the best possible learning environments. For this reason, Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) proposed House bill 2124, which would reform the state’s PlanCon system. PlanCon, an acronym for Planning and Construction Workbook, is a set of forms and procedures school districts use to apply for reimbursement from the state for major construction projects. This week, the House Education committee held a hearing on Grove’s bill.

“Challenges in addressing school construction reimbursement have escalated in recent years, dating back to the Rendell administration,” Grove told the committee. “The current process is overly cumbersome; it requires Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) approval at 11 different steps in the process. Furthermore, PDE is unable to meet its current PlanCon financial obligations. The Legislature must address reimbursement challenges for school districts to confidently move forward with necessary construction projects in the future.”

The PlanCon system is a workbook of forms districts fill out to pursue reimbursement. The process is designed to document a local school district’s planning process, provide justification for a project to the public, ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations, and establish the level of state participation in the cost of the project. However, the process is overly complicated and antiquated. For example, a rule requires districts to submit certain specifications on microfilm.

Additionally, PDE is currently unable to meet its financial obligations to school districts under PlanCon. According PDE’s testimony, the state would need to appropriation $140 million to move projects stalled at Part G to full reimbursement under Part H. PDE has estimated it would need approximately $1.7 billion to completely reimburse all 347 projects.

To resolve the ongoing PlanCon dilemmas, Grove’s legislation would overhaul the reimbursement process. The highlights of his bill are as follows:

• Set a ceiling for an appropriation of an additional $100,000,000 for school construction reimbursement.
• Provide for a public database on PDE’s website providing information about school construction and reconstruction projects, building purchases, and charter lease reimbursements.
• Establish a simplified process for school districts to apply for construction reimbursement, to be known as the “Accountability and Reducing Costs in Construction Process”, or ArcCon. Among other reforms, ArcCon will:
• Require reimbursements to be made in the order of PDE approval, unless the Secretary of Education prioritizes a project of a financial recovery school district.
• Provide reimbursement for a new building only if a cost-benefit analysis indicates the cost to construct does not exceed the cost to expand or renovate existing buildings, or if the district can demonstrate that a new building is necessary.
• Require automation of the ArcCon Process.
• Eliminate microfilm requirements.
• Allow school districts that began a construction project during the moratorium on new applications to apply for reimbursement following the expiration of the moratorium.
• Provide for interest payments to school districts on artificially delayed reimbursements.
• Allow lump sum reimbursement equal to 75 percent of the total eligible reimbursement, with school district agreement. 
 
The legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA PA), Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA), General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania (GCAP), Concerned Contractors of Pennsylvania, and Mid Atlantic BX (MABX). The legislation will soon face a vote by the House Education Committee.

You can also learn more about Grove’s legislative goals at www.repgrove.com, or by visiting www.Facebook.com/RepSethGrove.

Representative Seth Grove
196th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Mike Straub
717.260.6479
mstraub@pahousegop.com  
RepGrove.com / Facebook.com/RepSethGrove
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