By ALICIA LEONARD
A bill tightening the state’s grip on school construction costs has school districts, including Walton County’s, concerned they could lose future funding or the ability to secure lenders and the best rates when building new schools.
Many say the new extra per-student spending cap takes away the authority of local citizens as it would give the state control over how to apply local funds.
Districts that are deemed to have spent too much on construction could face additional oversight, and lose funding, if the cap is allowed to take effect by May 5, 2017.
Expanding student populations have compelled districts to look ahead and build for expected future populations. Construction costs can often cost less as one job rather than a steady drain of new plans and costs for additions.
The original bill also sought to shift some funds to charter schools from traditional schools, but that portion of the proposal was dropped.
The board workshopped some areas from landscaping changes to the removal of a mini-gym for the new elementary school in south Walton. Many other proposals on lowering costs were aesthetic, such as light towers, using carpet instead of tile, less built-in furniture, revised window size and even lower ceiling heights.
Many board members, as well as district Superintendent Russell Hughes, have attended sessions at the state capital. They have expressed their concern over whether their project would fall under the new rule; construction and financing was in the early phase and no one could give them a clear answer on where the school would fit into the timeline if the law passed without changes before the session for this year closes on May 5, 2017.
By ALICIA LEONARD