“With anticipated available funding, the focus of the public education capital budget for Fiscal Year 2024 is funding previously authorized projects, including market pressure funding for increased construction costs and statewide minor capital improvements and equipment funds,” the Education Department said in a statement.
Those funding demands total approximately $204 million, leaving no opportunity for authorization of new projects at this time, the statement said.
“We’re going to have to come back to the table and work with our state officials, Department of Education, Office of Management and Budget, the Bond Bill Committee and others to really see if there is another remedy to address this,” said Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green. “You can only put off these projects so long before the cost then becomes exorbitant in terms of being able to fund a lot of these projects.”
Jose Matthews, a Red Clay board member who is on the district’s facilities committee, said that he was not notified in any way by the state, and that the decision was “devastating.”
“As we defer maintenance, again, that number will only get higher,” he said. “The repairs don’t just go away, as much as we continue to sweep this under the rug.”
Here’s how much Red Clay planned on spending, categorized by the different areas the district was seeking money for.
- 21st Century teaching and learning: $24,964,087 (9.4%)
- Accessibility, health and wellness: $29,168,272 (11.0%)
- Building safety and secure entrances: $8,896,879 (3.4%)
- Exterior enclosure: $64,527,457 (24.3%)
- HVAC, electrical and plumbing: $116,112,797 (43.8%)
- Interior construction: $12,214,899 (4.6%)
- Site improvements: $9,115,609 (3.4%)
“As a district, we have a lot to be proud of, and Red Clay will continue to educate children, despite not receiving the support our buildings need,” Matthews said. “Unfortunately, this is how we fund our schools and I am disappointed that the state is failing to make a commitment for our children.”
He said the state legislature has an obligation to address Red Clay’s needs because public school buildings are all owned by the state.
“It’s their buildings and we have an accepted district partnership to maintain them,” Matthews said. “Funding from grants and outside entities do not come close to the threshold of financial support needed to make the repairs to our buildings.”
The district, whose $250 million request last year was also denied, voted in August to submit the certificate of necessity, this time asking for $15 million more, which Matthews says is adjusted for inflation.
The $265 million ask is about half of the $500 million in maintenance costs and improvement needs the district identified when it first submitted its request in 2021.
“It’s tough to continue to support quality educational environments when you have to look at deferred maintenance and talk about aging facilities, and you know, we have some of the oldest if not the oldest in the state,” Green said. “It’s disheartening to hear, but we have to strategize and continue to engage our community.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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