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Maryland committee gives favorable nod to $156 million in school improvement projects

A range of new construction and renovation projects at schools across Maryland could be on the horizon after a legislative committee gave its backing to a widespread capital improvement program.

The state Interagency Commission, or IAC, on School Construction backed the allocation of $156 million toward general obligation dollars for the public school construction program for schools throughout Maryland. The IAC gave its favorable vote at a meeting Dec. 16.

According to IAC officials, a total of 85 new construction and renovation projects are included in the capital improvement program, which reflects 75% of the $208 million allocated toward CIP projects in the state budget.

Speaking to the CIP and its components, Cassandra Viscarra, acting deputy director of administration, said,it “is typically the state’s largest school construction program. Of course, that excludes the recent addition of the Built to Learn Act.”

Built to Learn, the act established in the 2020 legislative cycle, is aimed at bringing additional school construction projects into the pipeline, separate from the CIP effort, through an additional funding source – casino lockbox revenues.

Of the commission-backed CIP projects that have the 75% funding commitment, the majority – 54 of the 85 approved requests – fall under the category of maintenance or renovations. The projects total $84.4 million.

The remaining 31 projects are billed as major construction and total $71.5 million under the 75% list that was presented to commissioners.

Arabia Davis, funding programs manager with the IAC, said the state budget allocation of $208 million toward the public school funding CIP was $17 million less than anticipated.

However, Davis said the state agency has procured $40 million in supplemental grant funding. The combined pot leaves a balance of $92 million for projects that will be considered through the first half of next year.

Viscarra and Davis discussed the various components that feed into the state CIP for public school improvements. The program through its existing framework was first established in 1972.

“Eligibility for the CIP is pretty broad,” Viscarra said. “The projects have to cost at least $200,000.”

While the projects considered each year are disparate, there are parameters in place. For example, a building remodel or maintenance project can only be applied to buildings older than 15 years with the intent of extending its useful life.

While each of the requests under the microscope at the commission’s recent meeting were granular, Viscarra and Davis said they also point to a bigger picture of public school funding in Maryland.

“To maximize the effectiveness of all of the IAC’s funding sources, staff, along with their local counterparts, are working to examine projects with a districtwide facility needs perspective to determine the level of funding needed for each project,” Davis said.

She added, “We’re working with local school officials to establish and piggyback on preventative maintenance practices that could be shared and implemented. These strategies position Maryland to become recognized as a national leader in public school construction in the coming years.”

This article was originally posted on Maryland committee gives favorable nod to $156 million in school improvement projects

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