Frederick County Public Schools likely will struggle to fund and keep its capital projects on time in its new proposed schedule.
The Frederick County Board of Education received a draft version of the school district’s draft capital plan on Wednesday. The plan calls for simultaneous construction of two elementary schools — one in the Urbana area, another in western Frederick — in the next fiscal year.
In the same fiscal year, 2018, the school system has proposed paying for the design of Urbana Elementary School and Rock Creek School, which are both slated to be reconstructed. Fiscal 2018 begins July 1, 2017, and runs through June 30, 2018.
All of the major construction projects, in fiscal 2018, plus planned renovations, could cost more than $88 million in local and state funding combined. The county has planned to contribute $80 million that fiscal year.
The school board relies on local and state money for both its operating and capital expenses.
But in the years after, funding projects will be difficult.
County Executive Jan Gardner has said publicly she plans to allot an average of $40 million per year in capital funding to the school system, though this might fluctuate from year to year.
Starting in fiscal 2020, the school district would request $49 million, and its requests would increase every year until fiscal 2023, when it would seek $91 million.
“It’s going to be very tough for the county,” Brad Young, president of the Board of Education, said after Wednesday’s school board meeting. “Our job as our school system and a board is to let the county know what we need. It’s their job to fund the projects.”
Additionally, the state, starting in fiscal 2018, will not pay districts as much for school construction. The state develops a cost per square foot for which it reimburses districts. That figure has gone down, said Beth Pasierb, supervisor of facilities planning with Frederick County Public Schools.
Pasierb said this decline wasn’t a surprise for the school system and it has accounted for it in budgeting for capital projects. The state will pay $265 per square foot for construction costs in fiscal 2018, compared to $282 in the current fiscal year, she said.
The state examined average recent bids from construction companies to determine the cost per square foot.
The school board, once it approves its capital plan, submits the request to the county, which generally will follow the board’s priorities.
The board will hold a public hearing on Sept. 7 on its proposed capital plans.