Eliminating the Ohio School Facilities Commission moniker would alleviate confusion and improve efficiency, Executive Director David Williamson told a House subcommittee Thursday.
The commission currently operates inside the Facilities Construction Commission, of which Mr. Williamson also serves as the executive director.
He said the biennial budget (HB 49) proposal to sunset OSFC wouldn’t change the school facilities funding work that’s already underway – all of which is already being completed by umbrella commission OFCC.
“The commission within a commission structure breeds confusion among stakeholder groups when trying to figure out with which commission to deal and has contributed to operational inefficiencies and costs,” Mr. Williamson told the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on Thursday.
He said the change will also streamline operations because both commissions currently hold back-to-back quarterly meetings attended by the same staff members and draft similar administrative rules.
“It has an additional advantage of alleviating the potential complicated legal issues that arise from having two legal entities – with confusing areas of authority – to engage in legal actions or file suit against, or on behalf of, if and when such conditions arise,” Mr. Williamson said.
Under the change, the OFCC will still consist of Office of Budget and Management and Department of Administrative Services directors as well as an appointed member of the governor’s cabinet.
Current appointees are Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria, who serves on OSFC, and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr, who serves on OFCC.
Mr. Williamson told the subpanel that he would work with the legislature if it chooses to appoint lawmakers to serve as non-voting members on the commission.
The executive budget also expands the entities that can seek approval from OFCC to manage their own capital improvement projects that cost less than $1.5 million. They include the Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio School for the Blind.
“The approval of this language would allow these entities to manage their small dollar projects under applicable laws and rules without the supervision or control of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission,” Mr. Williamson said. “It would bring consistency with the practices found in other state agencies.”
The commission would also be permitted under the budget bill to debar construction firms as well as specific individuals associated with those firms from seeking work on state contracts.
Mr. Williamson noted that the Department of Transportation director has such authority and the bill’s language is taken from that statute.
“Currently, if a construction firm is debarred, there is nothing that prohibits the owners of that company from simply starting a new company and then competing for work, which effectively negates the purpose of the debarment,” he said.
The governor funded the commission to the tune of $424 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $455 million in FY 2019.
Much of those dollars will pay the debt service on K-12 and cultural facility bond projects, which are estimated at $398.3 million in FY18 and $437.9 million in FY19, Mr. Williamson said.
OFCC’s work is given life in the capital budget, which previously appropriated $716.8 million for construction projects, including $650 million that’s designated for K-12 school facilities assistance projects.
Since 2011, the commission has completed work in 78 school districts and opened 270 new or renovated school buildings, Mr. Williamson said. It has also overseen historical facilities and completed 175 state agency projects.
The commission is currently in the active planning stages with 56 school districts, four state agencies and one community college, he added.
“We are proud of the work our staff has accomplished thus far, and are eager to continue the programs and responsibilities entrusted to us by the General Assembly and administration,” Mr. Williamson said.