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Sen. Ford backs bill for school infrastructure

SALISBURY — N.C. Sen. Carl Ford has joined the list of sponsors for the Building North Carolina’s Future legislation, which would fund infrastructure projects for North Carolina schools.

Senate Bill 5 would allow the state’s 115 school districts to apply for money for building schools and making repairs and renovations.

Ford, R-33, said the bill would allow the state to help kindergarten through 12th-grade schools with construction and maintenance.

The bill currently has 20 senators as sponsors. Sens. Harry Brown, R-6, Kathy Harrington, R-43, and Joyce Krawiec, R-31, are the primary sponsors.

“I haven’t heard anyone against it,” Ford said. “I’ve heard people wanting more.”

Ford said the state House has begun talks about drafting a bill addressing money for school construction and upkeep. However, that version would have debt associated with it. The bill had not been filed as of Thursday.

Ford said the House and Senate leadership will meet to try to agree on a school infrastructure bill or may decide to continue with separate bills.

Ford said the Senate bill would be a much better and quicker way to get money to school districts.

The bill states: “The General Assembly intends to annually appropriate one-third of funds available in the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund each year to state agencies, institutions of higher education and local school administrative units through the 2027-28 fiscal year.”

The funding would be taken from one-fourth of any unreserved fund balance.

Ford said the House draft bill would provide money more slowly since it will have 30 years of associated debt.

Several state representatives have offered support for the Senate bill. 

For school districts to receive money, the state Department of Public Instruction would appropriate it from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund for capital projects, repairs and renovation projects. The department will give priority to districts that have the greatest need and for those that have not received a grant form the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund in the previous five years.

Examples of some of the projects the grant would support are roof repairs; energy-efficiency improvements; removing asbestos, lead paint and other contaminants; and school safety enhancements.

Along with K-12 schools, the money could also go to community college and universities.

Ford said this could positively affect not only the Rowan-Salisbury Schools district but Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

The Building North Carolina’s Future bill, if passed, would go into affect July 1 ahead of budget negotiations.

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