RAYMOND — The House and Senate Committee of Conference agreed to final language on HB-533. Both chambers voted it out, and the Governor signed bill into law. This is a completely new methodology for school construction aid. Over the past few months, I have been asked questions about this bill. Below is a summary of my understanding.
One of the questions that was raised during the bill hearing process was why do we provide school construction aid when we don't provide construction aid for fire stations, police stations or town halls. One answer to that question is that towns are provided aid in other ways: (1) Revenue sharing with the Rooms and Meals tax. (2) Police academy and Fire academy that provide training for first responders. (3) Income from a variety of programs.
The changes to funding are significant, but in my opinion, necessary if we are to have meaningful state aid for school construction in the future. I think it is a great improvement that in the long term will be a win-win for both local districts and the state. Districts won't have to borrow as much and will see significant savings in interest. When the project is completed, Districts will receive their final state aid payment, rather than waiting every two years to see if the state will budget to provide its share of the bond payment for that biennium.
A summary of the key points to HB-533:
1. The new program will begin in FY 14 which starts on July 1, 2013.
2. The moratorium for voting on new projects remains in effect until June 30, 2013. To be eligible, Districts cannot vote on projects prior to July 1, 2013.
3. Project applications will be prioritized by the NH Department of Education (DOE) based on the following criteria: (a) Unsafe conditions. (b) Americans With Disabilities Act violations, obsolete, inefficient, or unsuitable facilities, including major systems. (c) Overcrowding. (d) Enrollment projections. (e) Reasonable attempts at maintenance of existing buildings. (f) District's fiscal capacity. (g) Other criteria identified by the DOE.