RALEIGH — A bill making its way through the General Assembly could give local schools more flexibility when building new schools.
The legislation, which easily passed the House and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, is called the School Construction Flexibility Act. It is aimed at allowing local school decision makers leeway to enter into leases for school facilities.
House Bill 600 passed the House with a 116-2 vote Tuesday, with all Robeson County’s representatives voting in favor. If it passes the Senate as currently written, it would allow counties to enter into lease agreements with developers for new schools and administration buildings.
Scotland County Rep. Ken Goodman is a primary sponsor for the bill. State Rep. Brenden Jones of Robeson County is the other sponsor.
“It really helps all of our counties, all of our counties are strapped, and we can’t come up with the upfront money,” Goodman said. “This puts them in the business of building schools without the capital expenditures up front.”
Goodman believes that the option to lease new school buildings would be of great benefit to cash-strapped counties. The bill focuses on Tier 1 counties, the poorest third in North Carolina.
Previous attempts at similar legislation have run into problems that Goodman believes this bill avoids.
“They used money that was designating teaching positions,” Goodman said. “But if you started to grow, and you needed teachers again, you ran into problems. This bill has safeguards in it.”
HB 600 specifically states that school boards can use any money for leases “except for funds allotted to the classroom teacher allotment category and the teacher assistant allotment category.”
Other safeguards include a more robust bidding process when selecting a developer, with public bidding and then the top three candidates being evaluated.
The bill would also allow more Quality Zone Academy Bond financing to be used in Tier 1 counties. They are low-interest bonds are to raise money to rehabilitate or repair public school facilities and provide equipment.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly