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Posted on May 16, 2016 at 12:09 PM by Paige Worsham
Results from 2015-16 Public School Facility Needs Survey
The N.C. State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) just released the 2015-2016 Public School Facility Needs Survey. First authorized by the legislature in 1987, local school boards must submit long-range facility assessments to DPI every five years. As the body responsible for funding school facilities, each Board of County Commissioners must review and certify their school board’s plan.
According to the results from the 2015-16 survey, public schools in North Carolina will need almost $8.1 million over the next five years to fund new construction, renovations, and equipment purchases. The needs included in the 2015-16 survey align closely with those assessments reported in the previous 2010-11 survey. Five years ago, the largest proportion of reported need was classified as renovations, with the construction of new schools placing second. These two most recent surveys differ from the 2005-06 survey, which placed the greatest need on new construction, followed by facility additions and renovations.
DPI offers several possible explanations for the decrease in stated need between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Enrollment projections in many of the LEAs have slowed in recent years, and school boards may have reported fewer projects following the Great Recession as funding sources declined. For 2015-16, DPI estimates an increase of 26,868 K-12 students (1.9%) since 2010-11; however, a decrease of 46,833 (-3.25%) is estimated over the next five years.
Types of School Facility Needs
Results from the 2015-16 survey show that several top priorities stand out. Statewide, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) call for 118 new schools, with 50 needed immediately and 68 needed in three to five years. The report notes that construction costs are increasing, from an average of $136 per square foot in 2005 to $194 per square foot in 2015. LEAs reported a need for additions to existing construction, including new classrooms at 322 schools, with the highest need in elementary schools. LEAs also reported renovation needs at 1,560 schools over the next five years, including roof and window replacements, plumbing and HVAC repairs, and building code upgrades. Most LEAs referenced depreciation and deferred maintenance as the reasons for the needed projects.
The last statewide school bond referendum was held in 1996, and the resulting $1.8 billion was expended before 2005. Local bonds have resulted in almost $1.7 billion for schools between 2011 and 2015. Counties previously received 40% of the lottery proceeds dedicated to education for their school construction needs. However, the legislature amended the original statute three years ago and now provides a “lump sum” appropriation of $100 million statewide, a percentage equal to roughly 17% of the lottery proceeds dedicated to education. 75% of the lottery funds allocated to counties between 2011 and 2015 were spent on debt service rather than new construction. According to calculations in the 2015-16 Survey, state funding (excluding debt service money) over the past five years would have addressed 1.6% of the reported total upcoming need of almost $8.1 million.
Access the complete 2015-16 Public Schools Facility Needs Survey, which includes additional graphs and data on individual LEAs, here.