RIDE approves funding for projects to repair or replace deteriorating school buildings

School projects of more than $375 million that are designed to repair or replace deteriorating school buildings in six school districts were approved Tuesday night by the Rhode Island Department of Education’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

The projects are all slated to receive state aid under the $250 million school facilities bond approved by voters last November, and the School Building Authority Capital Fund (SBA), a funding mechanism created in 2016 to provide upfront funding for projects. In this fiscal year, the General Assembly allocated $80 million under this program.

The districts – Providence, Westerly, Foster, Foster/Glocester, Cranston, and the Trinity Academy for Performing Arts – will receive varying amounts of state aid, based upon the district’s wealth and other factors. Incentives beyond the approved amount may be granted upon completion of the project, “to verify that all eligibility requirements have been met,” according to RIDE.

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The Bit Players

Besides the principal amount, districts will also receive state aid for debt service on local bonds passed by voters to complete funding for the projects. That aid, however, is contingent upon the communities financing bonds through the Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corp. (RIHEBC)

The council also granted additional funding of $39,901,249 for several projects approved between May 1, 2015 and Jan. 1, 2018 are not yet complete or have not issued bonds through RIHEBC.

This was the first of two rounds of grants this year. The next is slated for November, according to RIDE officials. There are eight districts that are in the “pipeline,” said Megan Geoghegan, communications director for the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. She said the 14 (the six approved tonight, and eight in the pipeline) represent all districts that have submitted applications.

The statewide bond was in response to a RIDE report (the Jacobs Report) that rated every Rhode Island public and charter school, most schools not meeting adequate standards. The report said it would cost more than $2.2 billion to bring the state’s schools to an adequate level, and more than $600 million just to bring all schools to a safe level.

Minimum state participation is 35 percent, with amounts ranging well beyond that depending upon several factors.

Here are the projects from the six districts:

  • Providence. Projects at 38 schools totaling $278,430,300, of which the recommendation says the state will pay $229,667,409, “when the applicable reimbursement share ratios are applied to the estimated total project costs.”
  • Westerly. Projects at several schools totaling $74,284,759, including construction of a new elementary school. The estimated state share is $25,999,666.
  • Cranston. Repairs at two middle schools and an elementary school, estimated at $13,497,432, with the state share $7,010,242.
  • Foster/Glocester. Repairs and renovations at Ponaganset High and Middle Schools of $4,485,000, with the total state share of $2,263,898.
  • Foster. Repairs and renovations to the Captain Isaac Paine Elementary of $1 million, with the total state share of $350,000.
  • Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts. Site purchase, repairs and renovations totaling $11,298,705, with the state share expected to be $3,389,612.

Understanding Bonus Incentives

Passage of the statewide bond activated six temporary bonuses, and a permanent bonus. Each of the bonuses is worth 5 percent increase to the base rate. These are the bonuses possibilities:

  • Permanent: School Safety and Security: To qualify for the bonus, 75 percent of a project must be specifically for the purposes of School Safety and Security.
  • Health and Safety Deficiencies: To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of addressing Health and Safety Deficiencies. Construction must also begin by Dec. 30, 2022 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2027.
  • Educational Enhancements. To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of addressing Educational Enhancements, such as Early Childhood Education and Career and Technical Education. Construction must also begin by Dec. 30, 2022 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2027.
  • Replacement of a facility with Facility Condition Index (FCI) of 65 percent or Higher, according to the Jacobs report. To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of replacing a facility that has a Facility Condition Index of 65 percent or higher. Construction must begin by Dec. 30, 2023 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2028.
  • Increased Utilization. To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of new construction or renovation that increases functional utilization from less than 60 percent to more than 80 percent. Construction must begin by Dec. 30, 2023 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2028.
  • Decrease Overcrowding: To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of new construction or renovation that decreases overcrowding from more than 120 percent functional utilization to between 85 and 105 percent. Construction must start by Dec. 30, 2023 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2028.
  • Newer and Fewer. To qualify for the bonus, 25 percent of the project costs or a minimum of $500,000 must be spent for the purpose of consolidating two or more school buildings into one school building. Construction must begin by Dec. 30, 2023 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2028.

The RIDE website says, “bonuses are applied at the completion of a project to verify that all eligibility requirements have been met.”

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