State reimbursement concerns schools panel

With three major construction projects currently in the works, the Warren County School District potentially has a lot to lose if the state reduces or delays reimbursement for approved school construction projects.

To those ends, the school board’s Physical Plant and Facilities Committee approved a resolution last Monday night that calls for “the General Assembly to uphold its responsibility to provide reimbursement to school districts engaging in needed school construction and renovation projects and to appropriately fund the program to ensure that school districts are reimbursed in a manner that is timely and predictable.”

Committee Chair and Board Vice President Donna Zariczny said that the intent of the resolution is “letting the state know where we stand with regard to PlanCon funding (and) how our financial status would be impacted. Letting them know how we fair in this whole thing.”

The resolution indicates that PlanCon funding has been held flat at $296 million for the last two fiscal years and has “decreased by over $30 million since 2009-2010, resulting in a significant backlog of projects in the PlanCon pipeline and a significant delay in reimbursement,” according to the resolution.

PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction Workbook, is a series of “forms and procedures used to apply for Commonwealth reimbursement,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “The PlanCon forms are designed to document a local school district’s planning process; provide a justification for a project to the public; ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations; and establish the level of state participation in the cost of the project.”

According to the resolution, “a significant delay in receiving the state reimbursement of Part H of the PlanCon process will force the Warren County School District to borrow additional money, and/or cut programs or services.”

No explanation of what those cuts might be was included in the draft resolution.

In addition to calling for state to continue funding PlanCon, the resolution also calls on the General Assembly to “examine and revise the current PlanCon process to save resources for both school districts and the Department of Education while still maintaining a state reimbursement program that ensures the structural and educational integrity of school facilities.” The committee forwarded the resolution to the full board for action.