SAB prepares for second priority” program ”

The priority funding program, originally concocted as a one-time way to get available construction cash out to districts that were ready to build schools but stuck in the back of the state's funding waiting line, was so popular that the State Allocation Board is taking steps to bring it back.

On Wednesday, the board authorized state officials to write regulations that would allow for a second round of the program. With virtually no discussion, board members unanimously approved the action.

I'm going to frame that letter that has everybody agreeing to something," said Cynthia Bryant, chair of the allocation board, amid laughter from members and the audience.

State officials at Wednesday's hearing reported that 49 out of the 78 projects that received apportionments under the priority program have already requested matching state funds from the Office of Public School Construction. Those 49 projects are worth about $320 million.

Lisa Kaplan, executive director of the allocation board, said that she hoped the entire $408 million in the priority program account will go out to districts next month. School construction operators that are handling the remaining 29 projects still have until November 2 to submit fund release forms to the OPSC.

In other action, the board approved a lottery system for funding applications that come to the OPSC on the same day.

With state construction dollars at a historic low, the allocation board needed to prepare for times when they could not approve funding for an entire batch of projects with the same arrival date, which is how incoming projects are categorized for board approval. The board decided to use a bingo-style lottery system to prioritize those same-day projects so that a portion of them could be approved.

Finally, the board raided $68.5 million in leftover cash from the Lease Purchase Program and the four bond propositions in order to fund shovel-ready projects. The available money had returned to state coffers following project audits, closeouts, and rescissions.

The board directed $53 million of the unused funds into a new priority funding program for shovel-ready projects. Details about the new priority program will need to be worked out at the next meeting.

For the rest of the leftover funds, $10 million was provided for the Charter School Facilities Program and $5 million was directed to joint-use projects.

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