Get dressed up.
Then get in line.
And hope for the best.
That’s the thinking behind the Payson school board’s decision last week to hire a consulting firm in hopes the district can sweet-talk Arizona’s School Facilities Board into paying for millions of dollars in long-deferred, urgently needed building repairs.
The board approved a contract with WRECORP to assess all the roofs in the district’s buildings so Payson will have its prom dress ironed when it’s trying to get into the big dance of state schools funding.
During the recession, the Arizona Legislature essentially stopped funding the School Facilities Board for anything but emergency repairs. This resulted in an estimated backlog of more than $2 billion in needed repairs statewide,, according to estimates by the Arizona School Boards Association.
Payson two years ago hired a consultant to assess the district’s capital needs. That consultant put the total at about $12 million.
The state has recently resumed at least partial funding for the School Facilities Board and Gov. Ducey’s proposed an additional $35 million statewide.
The roofing consultant will get all the paperwork done so the district can apply for money to repair roofs.
“The workload to complete the necessary paperwork for these projects makes it difficult for smaller school districts to get funding for capital projects,” according to the recommendation for the contract in the board’s agenda packet.
The new state rules require the district to use a different contractor to assess roof damage from the contractor used to repair that damage. EMC2 currently does the roof repair projects that get funded. Last year the state funded repairs to C Building and the Wilson Dome.
WRECORP will do the engineering studies and paperwork so the district can apply for money from the state school facilities board. The company will only get paid if the state funds the project. WRECORP has a similar contract with districts throughout the state, including Show Low, Snowflake and others.
“WRECORP will perform initial assessments and inspections and EMC2 will continue with design and project management,” according to the presentation by Brent Bailey.
Ducey has proposed a $12.3 billion state budget, including $6,156 in per-student state funding for K-12 schools. When adjusted for inflation, that’s about the same amount the state was spending in 2001.
The budget includes an extra $35 million for the School Facilities Board, a 44% increase from last year. That’s close to the legally-required formula, but won’t make much of a dent in catching up with the $2 billion in deferred maintenance.
Overall, the budget boosts K-12 spending by $600 million, mostly to keep pace with inflation and enrollment increases. However, it includes $175 million for the final, three-year, 20% increase in teacher salaries.
School districts across the state are already lining up hoping to get a chunk of the extra money for capital improvements.
The Arizona School Facilities Board is supposed to inspect school buildings for problems once every five years, with a focus on health and safety issues that could affect the state’s 1.1 million K-12 students. Arizona has 2,001 school buildings. The state conducted 20 inspections in 2015, 18 in 2016, none in 2017 and 2018 and one in 2019, according to an investigative report by The Arizona Republic.
The School Facilities Board has dramatically increased the projects it funds, rising from 300 in 2015 to 1,200 in the current fiscal year — including repairing roofs on the Payson High School campus.
However, years of backlogged demand continue to pose a challenge.
And that’s why Payson schools want to get all dressed up and outfitted in alluring paperwork before getting in line for a little more funding.
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