Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Philadelphia Area School Districts Eligible for $460 million in Federal Stimulus Money, But Does TESD Qualify?

OK, I admit I am confused about the education stimulus money that is available in our area. Philadelphia and 20 other local school districts are eligible for $460 million in federal stimulus money and there is a April 1 application deadline for the money. This money is available in low-interest bonds and can be used for funding construction and renovation projects. The funds are restricted to projects that increase energy efficiency, or create or renovate space or reduce class size in the lower grades. Projects that foster technology, science and engineering are also eligible for the federal money. School districts would pay interest rates from zero to 1.5%, plus some costs (and the school districts would need to repay the principal).

If I understand the PA Department of Education guidelines for obtaining the bonds, only districts with the highest tax and poverty rates and those with rapid population growth over the last 5 years can apply and the money must be spent within 3 years of being received. The Philadelphia School District has over 300 buildings that are an average age of 62 years old so the only difficulty for these folks is prioritizing the list of renovation work. Philadelphia School District could use up to $147 million in bonds; the other local school districts would share $316 million. If the eligibility requirement is as I understand, than I would have thought that Tredyffrin Easttown School District would not fit the criteria. If TESD does not fit the criteria requirement, than how is that the Great Valley School District (which would seem to be similar to TESD in its ‘poverty level rate’ or rather lack of) is planning on using these bonds to finance several small projects for projects that total less than $5 million, including renovation of the district administration building and the installation of solar panels at the middle school.

This is a unique opportunity to save a lot of money on renovation and construction projects but does that mean that TESD is eligible for this federal stimulus money or not? I need some of the school district experts to help me — Ray, Mike, Sarah . . . do you or anyone else know the answer here? If so, please help me understand.

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