Published Online: July 3, 2014

More money for Arkansas school construction

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An additional $2.3 million has been approved for public school construction and renovation projects in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1mbCYlr ) that the three-member Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission unanimously approved the funding Wednesday after learning of an error by the Pulaski County assessor's office that affected districts statewide.

A total of 246 projects in 120 school districts will receive additional funding that range from $59.81 for a safety feature in the Beebe Middle School gymnasium to $736,884 to help rebuild the North Little Rock High School-West Campus.

The projects were previously approved and a state Department of Education official said districts don't have to do anything to receive the funding.

"If their projects are already completed, the division will send the districts a check for the increase," said Lynn Robertson, senior project administrator in the state Department of Education's Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Division. "If the projects are in progress, then when the next payments come due, we'll adjust the state participation to the proper amounts. And, if a project is not started, the division will increase the state participation available to the district when the project starts."

The state aid is distributed on the basis of a school district wealth index.

Districts are ranked on the basis of their local property tax wealth and those with relatively less local property tax revenue per student are eligible for a greater percentage of state aid than districts with greater local wealth.

The academic facilities division adjusted the wealth index after learning of the Pulaski County assessor's office error in which property and tax revenue that belonged to the Pulaski County Special School District were mistakenly assigned for several years to the North Little Rock School District.

Correcting the error gave Pulaski County Special -- already near the top of the wealth index -- even greater local property wealth.

As a result, "North Little Rock and all the other districts in the state got a decrease," Robertson said, referring to their standing on the wealth index. "With a decrease in the wealth of all the districts, more state participation is required," Robertson said.

Robertson said the $2.3 million will come out of about $5 million already earmarked for 2013-15 school building projects, but unspent either because a project cost less than expected or a decision was made not to pursue a project.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com


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