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Pasco school officials anticipate push for higher impact fee
C.T. Bowen, Pasco Times, Tampa Bay Times
January 22, 2015
-- LAND O'LAKES — The last time Pasco County commissioners considered changing the amount of the school impact fee, the public debate turned into a monthslong political brawl featuring public protests, crowded town hall meetings and even intimidating emails from a home builder to elected officials.
And that was a 2011 discussion about lowering the fee, which is charged on newly constructed homes to help pay for new classrooms. Commissioners, on a 3-2 vote, eventually decided not to lower the fee, an idea that had been pitched to them as an economic stimulus.
Now, Pasco School District officials are laying the groundwork for a renewed debate, but this time the topic is about an expected increase in the school impact fee. The fee, currently at $4,800 per single-family home, finances school construction, but approval authority rests with county commissioners.
"If we don't have this discussion now, all we're doing is kicking the can down the road,'' superintendent Kurt Browning said this week to the school district's Penny for Pasco Oversight Committee .
Baltimore begins architecture reviews for $1B school construction program
Kevin Litten, Baltimore Business Journal
January 22, 2015
-- City architecture review panel members were very clear on Thursday about what they want to see in the schools being rebuilt as part of a $1 billion state program: no more fortresses.
Using words such as "prison-like," "penitentiary" and "introverted" to describe the architecture featured on most of the city's public schools, Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel members railed against the former approaches to school construction and vowed not to repeat them. Their comments came as the city began reviewing the first two sets of plans the Maryland Stadium Authority is submitting for Planning Department approval.
The school designs under the microscope on Thursday were Fort Worthington Elementary and Middle School near Broadway East and Frederick Elementary School on the west side. The Stadium Authority is managing the construction plans in a partnership with the city school system.
Fort Worthington is a complete demolition and rebuild being led by Baltimore-based Grimm + Parker Architects; Frederick Elementary is a renovation and addition being led by USA Architects of Somerville, N.J.
Proposed Bills Could Put School Facilities Task Force Efforts in Jeopardy
Will Armbruster, ABC 8 News
January 22, 2015
-- RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A group has been working more than a year to figure out how to fix crumbling Richmond school buildings, but their efforts may be in vain if proposed legislation is passed.
For 18 months, the School Facilities Task Force has been studying, analyzing, and coming up with ways to improve facilities.
Two lawmakers are proposing bills that offer a different plan and Richmond School Board members are puzzled.
“The bills are unnecessary,” said school board member Jeff Bourne. “They’re redundant to all the work that’s been going on the past year and a half.”
“I wish we had seen something on paper it had been fully vetted by the school board before it went forward,” said school board member Kristen Larson.
Larson is talking about legislation proposed by Senator John Watkins and Delegate Delores McQuinn.
The lawmakers want to establish The Richmond City Public Schools Learning Excellence by Aligning Public Schools Commission, which would be responsible for establishing school building standards.
The mayor, city council, and school board would each appoint two people to the board. Members would then nominate a seventh person as a chairman.
School board members say their group is already doing what these bills are proposing.
“You have this task force in place doing the work that this other committee would do right?” asked 8News Senior Reporter Nate Eaton.
“Absolutely,” Bourne replied. “The task force we created has been working for a year and the report they’re going to issue is imminent.”
SCHOOLS CHIEF ADMITS NJ MISHANDLED CONSTRUCTION PROCESS IN NEEDY DISTRICTS
JOHN MOONEY, NJSpotlight
January 22, 2015
-- Hespe concedes state didn’t follow legally required procedure, says it’s now complying with law. In a rare show of cooperation with one of its staunchest critics, the Christie administration has agreed with a legal challenge to the way the state Department of Education reviews and approves new school-construction projects in New Jersey’s neediest cities.
State Education Commissioner David Hespe this month sided with an administrative law judge’s recommendation that backed a challenge from the Education Law Center over the operations of Hespe’s own department.
The complaint filed in 2012 by the ELC, which has led the landmark Abbott v. Burke school-funding litigation, accused the department of failing to ensure that districts covered under the Abbott case completed required long-range facilities plans that would drive the construction projects.
At the time, the ELC maintained that the department had not received new plans in five years, and the case has been central in the ELC’s ongoing challenge to the Christie administration’s slow pace in moving forward with court-ordered projects for these districts.
The school-construction work has since gotten underway, but the ELC has continued to maintain that the administration has still not adhered to the law requiring it to follow long-range plans set by the districts.
General Assembly bill would earmark small percentage of R.I. sales tax for school construction projects
LINDA BORG, Providence Journal
January 22, 2015
-- PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sen. Ryan W. Pearson is proposing using a small percentage of the state’s 7-percent sales tax to pay for school construction in an effort to encourage school districts to maintain their buildings rather than wait until they are falling apart.
Pearson, D-Cumberland, proposed a similar measure last year as chair of the Senate task force on school construction.
The new bill, submitted Wednesday, would allocate .57 percent of one percentage point of the sales tax to pay for school construction. The percentage would increase by .04 each year until a 1 percentage point is reached in about 10 years.
“No state has figured out how to do this,” Pearson said, referring to the financing of school construction. The Rhode Island plan is similar to one developed by Massachusetts, which dedicates 1 percent of the state’s sales tax to help pay for school facility improvements.
In fiscal 2016, this proposal would generate $81.4 million, according to Pearson. The annual increases would add an additional $5.7 million.
The goal is to reduce the state’s dependence on costly bonds and allow districts to fund smaller projects such as a new roof or boiler.
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