Several central Ohio entities are slated recipients of funds from the $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The New Albany-Plain Local School District's recent application for $50-million, however, isn't among them thus far. As it turns out, the district might have applied for funds that don't yet exist.
Several central Ohio entities are slated recipients of funds from the $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The New Albany-Plain Local School District's recent application for $50-million, however, isn't among them thus far. As it turns out, the district might have applied for funds that don't yet exist.
MORPC executive director Chester Jourdan said there is no line item in the federal stimulus legislation to provide funding for public school facilities.
"There was an argument being made on the House side for public school construction, which would create short-term construction jobs and long-term development," Jourdan said. "That was never part of the final package."
District Superintendent Steve Castle submitted one application with three separate projects directly to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission on Feb. 27, under a "miscellaneous" category, according to MORPC representative Allen Lloyd.
The application requested $25-million for the construction of a 5-6 building, $10-million for the expansion of the current K-1 building and $15-million for a freestanding academic building.
Lloyd said about five local schools and school districts submitted applications through MORPC, which represents 44 local governments to help with development and infrastructure.
Jourdan said New Albany and other districts around the country that applied for school construction funding would have to wait until money is set aside for such purposes.
"As far as I know, they were let down because there really wasn't a dedicated earmarked funding source," Jourdan said.
He said MORPC continues to stress the importance of these projects to state and federal elected officials.
Scott Blake, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education, said most applications, regardless of what category they're in, were supposed to be submitted to http://recovery.ohio.gov, the Web site the governor's office set up to accept stimulus applications.
From the site, those that apply may select from such project categories as transportation, infrastructure, education and public safety, among others.
Entities, such as the ODE, that have been charged with distributing stimulus money then pull applications from the recovery Web site for their areas of focus.
Blake said the ODE has received more than 800 applications for stimulus funds from Ohio school districts.
The applications the department has received have to do with curriculum and classroom equipment, not facilities, as in New Albany-Plain Local's application.
Dublin City Schools applied for more than $600,000 in federal stimulus money through the governor's office to help hire more bilingual teachers and provide middle school teachers with two years of consultant help to develop integrated math, science, technology and engineering lessons.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission, which administers the state's school construction program and helps districts fund, plan, design, build and renovate schools, has not been charged with distributing any stimulus funds, according to OSFC chief of communications Rick Savors.
Castle told ThisWeek he knew the application was a "long shot" but thought it was the district's responsibility to seek the funding.
State Reps. Marian Harris (D-Columbus) and Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) worked with the district on the proposal.
Harris said MORPC was one of many entities through which federal stimulus funds are distributed.
The commission was given control over $28-million of stimulus money to distribute for transportation purposes and announced allocation Monday, March 30.
Harris said she had communicated with the district about the application and asked Castle to prioritize his requests. He said the 5-6 building is the top priority to help reduce overcrowding.
"I have passed on the information from the school district, but they are going to be competing with a lot of other projects," Harris said.
Harris said she knows MORPC plans to announce the allocation of other stimulus funds in the coming months.