TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner to increase the amount of bonds authorized under the “Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act” by $3.9 billion was approve by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today by a vote of 9 to 4.
“It’s important that we get school construction projects back on track quickly so that we can provide our children with the educational opportunities they deserve,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “These school construction projects are overdue. If we continue to ignore the importance of funding these projects now– we will only find higher building costs and increased need for projects in the future. The postponing of construction projects, especially in the Abbott districts is no longer an option. We need these schools built now.”
The bill, S-1457, would allocate $2.9 billion of the new bonds to the Abbott districts, and $1 billion to non-Abbott districts. Of that $1 billion for the non-Abbotts, $50 million would be reserved for vocational schools. The bill also would provide that the increase in the bond amount would be repaid from the State income tax.
“The State Supreme Court has made it clear that children in Abbott school districts must have their educational needs met,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “This bill would finally provide our children with a safe place to learn and grow. The $2.9 billion allocated for Abbott districts in this bill would finance the completion of 26 deferred projects as well as approximately 20 to 25 additional and necessary projects.”
Senator Turner stated, “It’s important that we have proper oversight of all funding for school construction. We will no longer tolerate any waste or abuse when it comes to school construction, and we must ensure that every dime goes to the building of these schools. Under the bill audits of projects that exceed $10 million would be required in order to prevent wasteful spending.”
Senator Rice noted that the funding for the non-Abbotts would be distributed through grants. The grants would be awarded based on the district aid percentage that is determined by the new school funding formula.
According to Senator Turner, under the bill, there would be a priority ranking system for non-Abbott projects based on critical need. The areas of health and safety, over crowding, special education needs and full day kindergarten for districts that are required to provide it would be taken into consideration.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.