School districts need relief from outdated, complex PlanCon process
● By Lev
Representatives of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association joined with Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) to call for the General Assembly to pass legislation that will simplify the school construction reimbursement process during a news conference at the State Capitol. School board directors speaking during the news conference included, PSBA President Rich Frerichs, Penn Manor School District; Thomas Kerek, board vice president, Kane Area School District; Kerith Taylor, school board member, Brookville Area School District; Rocky Ahner, school board member, Lehighton Area School District.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) requires school districts to use the 11-step Planning and Construction Workbook (PlanCon) process in order to apply for state reimbursement for a share of approved construction costs. The process requires school districts to complete a maze of forms and procedures required by PDE.
Dr. Richard Frerichs, 2014 PSBA president, said, “The PlanCon process is burdensome, expensive and needlessly complicated for school districts. Further, the process is full of outdated requirements that have created challenges that have escalated over a period of years since it was first developed in the 1970’s. House Bill 2124 provides solutions to the burdens created by this complex mandate by modernizing and simplifying the process, effectively reducing costs for districts, taxpayers and the state.”
HB 2124, sponsored by Rep. Grove, establishes Accountability and Reducing Costs in Construction Process (ARC Con), an efficient approval process that replaces the PlanCon requirements with just five benchmark steps. Under the new ARC Con process, paperwork is streamlined, an online database makes all aspects transparent, and school districts are reimbursed in the order their completed paperwork is received. In addition, school districts will be able to submit paperwork electronically, reducing time and costs for school districts and PDE.
“We need bi-partisan support for HB 2124 from all legislators to reduce the administrative process to a more manageable and cost effective means of dealing with capital improvements,” said Thomas Kerek, vice president of the Kane Area School Board. “If the continuity of the process were made more efficient and transparent, it would help school board officials tremendously when dealing with budgetary issues within their school district.”
HB 2124 has passed the House but is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate Education Committee.