A late change to the Pennsylvania budget could save the Warren County School District about $1 million.
Under Gov. Tom Corbett's original budget proposal released in January, state reimbursement for new school construction projects would be suspended for one year.
An amendment approved in the days leading up the end of the last fiscal year stipulates "the Department of Education (PDE) shall not accept or approve new school building construction or reconstruction project applications," according to the text of the bill, House Bill 1901.
But the amendment adds one key caveat: "Completed school building construction or reconstruction project applications received by the Department of Education by October 1, 2012, are not subject to this provision."
PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction workbook, is an 11-part process, lettered parts A through K, that a school district follows when it undertakes a major construction project and seeks state reimbursement for project costs.
While Corbett's original proposal was slated to limit reimbursement to all projects in the 2012-2013 fiscal year that had not reached PlanCon part H, the amended version passed in the final budget allows PlanCon to proceed, and state dollars to be received, for any construction project, assuming a school district files its application by Oct. 1.
With renovations and expansion in the works for Sheffield Area Middle High School and Eisenhower Middle High School in preparation of converting those facilities to K-12 schools, the change at the state level will make those projects less costly.
Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht, the school district's director of buildings and grounds, said in an email to the Times Observer on Monday that the applications for both projects have been submitted to PDE.
According to documentation prepared by school district administration for a closure hearing held for five district elementary schools last month, total savings utilizing low-to-no interest Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) for the Eisenhower project, along with state PlanCon reimbursement, will save the district $6,435,035 by 2017. Without state reimbursement, the district will see savings in the same period, but they will be significantly less, totaling $5,684,924.
PlanCon Part A, a project justification that also serves as the "first step", according to PDE Press Secretary Tim Eller, and Part B, a review conference of the drawings, site plan and educational specifications for the proposed facility, were approved for the elementary addition to Sheffield at a special meeting of the WCSD board of directors on June 28.
The educational specifications for the Eisenhower project were also approved at that meeting.
PlanCon reimbursement for projects that are already underway, such as the Beaty-Warren Middle School project, won't change. "Those currently in the system will continue to be processed," Eller said.