Schools in nearly every county of the state have applied for and been granted school security upgrade funds totaling $6.5 million, the Ohio School Facilities Commission reported Thursday.
To date about 2,500 applications for grants have been submitted to the commission and nearly all approved. The grants impact 426 districts in 84 counties and 874,500 students, OSFC Chief of Facility and Program Services Jeff Westhoven said.
The commission opened applications for the $12 million in grants in October. Two types of grants are available to cover the costs of installing a first-responder communications system – up to $2,000 – or door security upgrades – up to $5,000.
Applications continue to be nearly evenly divided between the door security and radio system requests, with 47% of requests being for the former and 53% for the latter, Mr. Westhoven said.
Grant money is distributed on a reimbursement basis once districts expend the money. So far, of the $6.5 million in grants approved by the OSFC, $1.07 million has been reimbursed, he said. The average processing time is eight days and average reimbursement time is five days.
OSFC also surveyed districts that had moved all the way through the grant process and found 22 of the 28 respondents said they “strongly agreed” that they were pleased with the overall experience of applying for the grants, Mr. Westhoven said.
The round one application deadline is March 15, at which point OSFC will assess how much has been spent. If funding is available, it may open round two on June 15, he said.
OFCC: Ohio Facilities Construction Commission members heard an overview of the capital bill submission from the entity.
David Chovan, OSFC chief operating officer, said the proposal includes funding for four programs over the next three biennia. The first priority is $700 million in fiscal years 2015-16 for the K-12, OSFC construction program.
The first half of the state’s more than 600 districts have had their construction projects funded, but another quarter of districts have deferred or lapsed because of an inability to secure local funding, and the final quarter have not yet come up on the priority list, he said.
The financial request would allow the commission to fund about 25 districts per year and keep with the current plan to complete all schools in 12 years, Mr. Chovan said.
OFCC’s second priority is $3.6 million over the next two biennia to conduct facility assessments in all of the state’s 5,400 buildings and structures totaling in more than 44 million square feet, he said.
“This will result in scope and cost data to better determine the needs and best uses of the state’s capital dollars,” he said.
Next, the commission requested $3.2 million per biennia to provide capital grant funding annually to state agencies for energy-related projects that would create energy efficiencies and reduce costs, Mr. Chovan said.
Lastly, OFCC requested $800,000 over the next three biennia to improve the reporting capabilities of the OAKS capital improvement application and provide access to the application from multiple browsers and mobile devices, he said.
Project Funding: Commission members approved the distributing of construction dollars to two district projects that are able to be funded because previously approved projects for fiscal year 2014 were unsuccessful in obtaining their local share of funding.
Norton City School District in Summit County, which was “lapsed” on its project by a couple years, was successful in securing its local bond levy in the November 2013 election, OSFC Chief of Planning Bill Ramsey said.
The funding covers Segment 1 of the project, which is funded at $16.34 million, with 51% of that being paid by the state, he said.
Also approved for funding was a Federal Hocking Local School District project in Athens County, which is approved at a cost of $567,154, 67% of which is funded by the state. It would pay for a roof replacement at the high school and other work in the district, Mr. Ramsay said.
The district had its full, $9.8 million project approved by the Department of Education in 1995 for work at two elementary schools and a high school, he said.
Commissioners asked if districts that are able to pass bond levies to pay for school construction then struggle to pass operating levies to open and run those buildings. OSFC Director Richard Hickman said the operating levies are typically given priority over construction funding.
“It’s a district’s approach to take care of the operating levy on a primary basis because that lets their educational programs continue, and that’s a primary concern for them,” he said. “What we see is most districts are reluctant to go forward with a capital building levy and at the same time go forward with an operating levy.
“With the economic situation that not only Ohio but other states across the nation have faced with unemployment and a very difficult labor situation within our districts…that has taken a toll on our program.”
Project Amendments: The commission also approved changes to the Cincinnati Public Schools master plan. It would move the demolition of a high school from the current segment under construction to be part of the final segment, Mr. Ramsey said.
In doing so, the cost of Segment 2b is reduced by $1.5 million, which is transferred to Segment 3b, he said. The latter portion of work also increased another $800,000 because the district opted to add two additional demolition projects for buildings it had previously thought it would use.
Both the OSFC and the OFCC re-elected Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen as chairman and Department of Administrative Services Director Robert Blair as vice chairman.