Senate Introduces School Capital Funding Bill as Alternative to School Bond Referendum Proposal
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager
The 2019-2020 legislative session began its first day of official business on Wednesday, with Senate lawmakers introducing a $2.03 billion school construction funding bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) held a press conference Wednesday morning in which he discussed Senate Bill 5, “Building North Carolina’s Future”—a bill that would use money from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund to raise $2.03 billion for K-12 school capital needs over the next 9 years. Sen. Brown stated the bill was introduced as an alternative to the $1.9 billion school bond referendum recently proposed by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
The Senate plan proposes to increase funding to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF), which currently receives 4% of state revenue each year to pay off the state’s debt, as well as fund capital projects for the state government and the UNC system. Senate Bill 5 would increase this share of the state revenue to 4.5% in order to provide $2.03 billion each to K-12 schools, the UNC System, and the Community College System over the next nine years.
Senate Bill 5 would authorize the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to distribute the funds for capital repairs and renovations, while giving the highest priority to schools that have not received a grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund in the past five years. The bill also adds “school safety enhancements” to the list of projects to be utilized by the funds, but notes that schools which are not in compliance with the class size mandate in G.S. 115C-301 can only use funds for capital expenditures needed to comply with the law. In addition, the bill allocates $100 million in recurring funds from the Education Lottery Fund towards the Public School Building Capital Fund.
In comparison, the plan introduced by House Speaker Moore would allow voters to decide on a $1.9 billion school bond, which would include $1.5 billion for K-12 school repairs and renovations over ten years. The UNC System and Community College System would each receive approximately $200 million.
In response to the two proposals on school capital already released by House and Senate leaders, Katherine Joyce, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), issued the following statement:
“We are pleased to see both the House and Senate focused on providing increased state support for K-12 public school facilities,” Joyce said. “While they are offering two diverse proposals, we hope they ultimately will agree on a significant statewide investment that enables our public schools to address the more than $8.1 billion in needed facility construction, repair and renovation. We look forward to working with both chambers and the Governor to move this needed funding forward this session.”