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School Building Authority has more money for Monday’s decisions on school projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state School Building Authority will decide Monday which school construction projects from across the state will get part of the funding in this year’s “needs grants” program.

Ben Ashley

The SBA is coming to the table with more money that originally thought. When 30 county school superintendents appeared before the authority with their projects last month it was believed there was approximately $51.4 million available for funding but now that’s been bumped up to approximately $75 million.

SBA Director of Architectural Services Ben Ashley said SBA Executive Director David Roach, the authority’s finance staff and finance committee were able to sweep accounts, take money left over from other projects and make some other moves to increase the amount available.

“We know that the need coming out of the first year of the CEFP (Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan) is tremendous and we’ve worked really hard to make sure we have as much money to address that as we can,” Ashley said.

Every 10 years each county school district is required to submit new CEFPs, which lays out their priorities for facility projects for the next decade. The counties have completed and submitted their plans during the past year and this is the first time projects associated with those new plans are before the SBA for funding.

“So everybody that’s brought a project has brought their best project,” Ashley said. “Authority members have some really, really tough decisions to make.”

Ashley said there seems to be the desire this year to fund some larger projects.

Monday’s meeting will include detailed discussion about each project and possible scenarios for funding before the decisions are made, Ashley said.

“We’re go through the merits of every project, give them some choices and options, and then they’ll choose exactly how to spend that available money,” he said.

County school superintendents travel to Charleston last month to make their pitches.

Roane County is seeking funding for a new Spencer Middle School. Superintendent Richard Duncan has requested $15 million from the SBA.

“We won’t be building an entirely new stand-alone facility. We’ll be building an adjacent facility that makes use of that shared space (with Roane County High School),” Duncan said last month.

Ritchie County is seeking $17 million for a new Harrisville Elementary School and a new Creed Collins Elementary School located in Pennsboro.

“We are willing to consider any funding option, if it’s multi-year, whatever would work best for the Authority,” Ritchie County Superintendent Jim Brown told the SBA during his March presentation.

The funding requests from all 30 counties add up to $248 million.

Ashley said authority members will consider how the project helps health and safety, improves curriculum, creates educational innovations, meets space needs and impacts maintenance. He said ultimately the funding decisions come down to a couple of basic questions.

“How bad the current situation is and how good their proposed solution is,” he said.

The School Building Authority meeting begins at 10 a.m. Monday in Charleston.

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