Thursday, February 12, 2009

Construction Bond Funding for DeKalb County Schools: Requesting Equitable Funding


This information has been brought to us by Elena Parent, Sen. Adelman’s Chief of Staff. "It is Sen. Adelman’s belief that while there are many, many infrastructure projects of necessity in the DeKalb School System, there may not have been as many that were completely planned, passed by the School Board and “shovel ready” if you will as some of the other counties, and that those likely received the lion’s share of the bond package because they were ready for immediate funding."

When Ms. Parent asked for information from David Lakly, the Education Analyst for the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, she got this response:

The Department of Education (DOE) awards money for Capital Projects based on need as determined by each system's five year capital outlay plan. The money allotted to DeKalb in the FY10 capital projects list is based on the plan DeKalb County submitted to DOE last year. This plan was approved by the DeKalb County School Board, and then approved by the State School Board. Without placing blame on either side, there has apparently been a good deal of miscommunication between DeKalb County and DOE. DeKalb contends that their current five year plan does not accurately reflect their current capital needs, and DOE has offered their assurance that they are currently working with DeKalb to assist with revision of their plan. This could result in more money for DeKalb in the FY11 for capital projects. Additionally, while it is currently a moving target, the proposed federal stimulus bill could provide additional money to DeKalb county for capital projects.

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DeKalb County Schools received significantly less than other Metro school systems for construction needs in the Governor’s FY2010 budget recommendations for capital outlay and is therefore requesting additional capital outlay funding.

Metro District Allocations

Cherokee $7,983,293
Clayton $4,316,934
DeKalb County $1,203,680
Cobb $41,797,726
Fulton(includes APS) $22,522,568
Gwinnett $42,431,993
Rockdale $3,327,568

The five year facility plan school systems must submit for funding under the Entitlement Program was developed by the state and does not accurately reflect the needs of school systems. The Entitlement Program formula used by the Department of Education (DOE) favors enrollment growth and currently provides significantly more funds to neighboring school systems over DeKalb. This Entitlement Program funding is not based on the needs assessments local districts provide to DOE. Instead, districts may only apply for a reimbursement based on DOE’s calculation, which does not factor in what the system’s believe reflects their needs. If districts do not accept this, they risk not receiving any construction funding.

DeKalb County Schools
• Is the third largest school system in the state and the current appropriation could not meet the facilities needs of even one school in the County
• Has more buildings than any other school system in the state
• Has over 600 mobile classroom units on our sites to assist with overcrowding
• Has aging school buildings (some are 40-60 years old) with older related infrastructure (ie: air conditioning units)
• Has $2 billion in facilities needs even after 3 SPLOSTs totaling $1 billion
• Spent $66 million on recent construction at 3 schools (Princeton ES, Flatrock ES and Dunwoody ES). As the current construction formula is structured, DeKalb is not eligible to receive funding reimbursement from the State for these necessary projects
• Has enrollment growth in particular regions of the county which has escalated the construction needs of these areas
• Can not provide SPLOST IV funds until 2014 and there are immediate construction/infrastructure needs that need to be met.

The construction bond funding formula was developed by the Department of Education and follows no Federal or State requirements. This formula can be changed without amending current state statute.

Proposed Changes/Recalculation for Capital Outlay Formula:
• Developing a formula which emphasizes school districts with stable enrollment and aging facilities instead of significant emphasis on school systems with enrollment growth.
• More transparency from DOE in the formula factors and funding priorities as they relate to construction bonds.
• A formula that does not penalize systems for 'seats' that are in buildings that have been decommissioned for use as instructional facilities. Simply redrawing attendance lines or redistricting would not solve the problem if this is still a factor in funding.

12 comments:

Ella said...

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

I've heard from a SPLOST III Committee member who I respect and trust that things are going much, much better than SPLOST II.

Part of the problem is that communication about SPLOST, whether from the committee or DCSS is poor. The committee meetings need to be open to the public. There doesn't have to be a public comment part that takes an hour, but at least advertise the meetings better and make sure the meeting agenda and minutes are posted online, along with the member list with short bio's.

The public has a lot of questions. Cross Keys was No. 2 on the SPLOST III list, and is still a mess. Lakeside High is one of the worst high school facilities in the Southeast.
Arabia Mt. High is LEED, why aren't the other new and renovated schools?

If things are going well with SPLOST III, the public needs to be in the loop. It's common sense and so easy with the internet. Heck, have DCTV broadcast the meetings.

Anonymous said...

Clayton $4,316,934
DeKalb County $1,203,680


Clayton's enrollment shrunk dramatically. And they got more than three times what DeKalb got?

This has to be FIXED NOW!!

pscexb said...

Anon @ 12:46, good information! I also understand members of that committee want to ensure communication is handled properly. Advertisement for meetings in general can be improved.

Good news is that SPLOST revenues are running about 25% higher than projected, despite the current economic woes. There were also discussions about redoing the priorities, based on common sense changes that should be made. A presentation is tentatively scheduled to be made at the March Board meeting, which I think will be at Druid Hills. I you can't be there, I would suggest watching on Comcast 24.

Also, O&T has been a big advocate for more LEED certified buildings also. As I understand, while the building will be built/renovated to meet LEED certification, is is somewhat cost prohibitive to actually get the certification. It comes down to a matter of the best uses for our limited dollars.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that LEED buildings only cost 3-10% more than regular construction, and there are sometime federal funding programs and foundation grants available for LEED construction. I say it may be a little more, but spend the money upfront to save long term.

pscexb said...

Anon @ 3:01, it is the certification process I was referring to. As indicated, I understand buildings will be constructed/renovated to the standard, we just may not get the formal certification.

Anonymous said...

I work in the environemtnal field and work in a LEED certified building. The county should not waste time and money on the certification unless the federal government or some other entity is footing the bill. But DCSS should incorporate cost effective and energy efficiency in all new buildings. There are plenty of energy efficient "shovel ready" projects the county could implement over breaks and the summer such as better lighting, water saving toilets and sinks and most important of all- replace all those crappy single pane windows in the buildings from the 50s and 60s with new energy efficient windows.

Cerebration said...

Wow - 600 trailers!!! If there are 25 students in each trailer - that equates to 15,000 students in DeKalb County enduring their classes in a trailer at any given time.

That's more students than most school systems even have!

Cerebration said...

From the Ed Money Watch blog --

Although the Senate bill originally included $19.5 billion in school construction funds ($16 billion for K-12 and $3.5 billion for higher education), the adopted version does not. However, the Senate maintained $1 billion in funding for Education Technology Assistance Grants under the School Improvement section of the bill. These grants provide funding to schools and states to use technology to improve student achievement.

Additionally, the adopted Senate bill allows states to issue $10 billion in federal tax credit bonds for school construction that will save states $4.5 billion in interest payments over 10 years. Many organizations report the $4.5 billion federal cost of the credit rather than the $10 billion face value of the bonds.

Additionally, the bill allows an increase of $1.4 billion to the total value of issued Qualified Zone Academy Bonds for charter school construction.

pscexb said...

Everything I've researched on the compromise bill does NOT explicitly include dollars for school renovations. The earlier House version included over 36 million dollars for DeKalb. Has anyone else seen anything of significance?

Cerebration said...

go here and search projects by Schools -
http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_program/Schools

All I see for GA is $33 million for Macon and some for Marietta. But the search is by city - not by county...

Millions upon millions went to Los Angeles, Miami, etc.

Did anyone catch the Yahoo news headline today about the most deserted cities (people leaving due to foreclosures, etc) -- Las Vegas, Detroit, Atlanta -- we were third! Yikes!

Kim->CommunityRadar.com said...

@Cere: "go here and search projects by Schools -
http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_program/Schools"

That site is an advocacy site for projects proposed by mayors, not a list of "what is in the bill."

I'm no expert on these matters (who is?) but I believe the "Stimulus" package just defined each of the massive wheelbarrows of dollar bills going to various federal agencies to disburse.

So, I think it is an avenue to express "public support" for any of the items the mayors have on their list that they want a federal agency to fund from stimulus dollars. Since we don't have a mayor of DeKalb, we won't see any DCSS items on that list! :)