|January 4, 2023 03:31 PM
|Senator Timothy P. Kearney
|All Senate members
|I will soon introduce legislation to address the significant facilities crisis facing many Pennsylvania school districts. After nearly 10 years of absence, it is time to restart PlanCon by finally appropriating funding for school construction and facility renovation.
Thanks to Senate leadership’s determination to reform and improve PlanCon through the PlanCon Advisory Committee, the legislature resoundingly supported and passed Act 70 of 2019, enacting the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. A simplified electronic 4-step process replaced the burdensome 11-step paper process, high-performance building standards that save taxpayer dollars over time were incorporated into the program, and an updated reimbursement formula provided a more efficient and fair management of state funds.
Act 70 also addressed the pressing issue of maintaining our existing school assets by creating the Maintenance Program. Distinct from the traditional PlanCon program, this program is meant to award funds for vital projects including roof repairs and replacement, HVAC, boilers and controls, plumbing systems, energy-saving upgrades, health and safety upgrades, and facility emergencies.
Under this legislation, I propose that we focus investment on the highest impact projects by solely opening applications to the new Maintenance Program created under Act 70 for a temporary 3-year period. After this period, the Department of Education would open the program for traditional PlanCon projects with the Maintenance Program returning to its 20% share of available funding.
School districts across the commonwealth have attested to the need for funding to bring schools into a state of good repair. From stories about 75 kindergarteners sharing a single toilet stall, to news articles about collapsing and leaky roofs, every legislator has been made aware of the need to address the crisis. According to the most recent benchmarks, Pennsylvania and its school districts are underfunding school facility capital investments by $2.7 billion annually.
Providing for our children’s physical wellbeing in school has always been a joint effort between the state and its school districts. Some school districts can no longer wait for the state to act, and are using local ESSER funds to get started on critical repairs and renovations. By reviving PlanCon, the legislature would multiply the impact of federal funds for facility repairs. I believe it is time for the state to invest its fair share into the facilities in which our children are growing up.
Please join me in putting to use our new and improved PlanCon program and addressing the significant facility needs of our education system.
Introduced as SB415