PlanCon advisory committee looks at flexible approach to school construction projects
July 15, 2016
The Public School Building Construction & Reconstruction Advisory Committee met early Tuesday to hear an overview of the PlanCon process and discuss possible changes to the system.
The advisory committee was formed under Act 25 of 2016, which was the Fiscal Code bill accompanying the FY 2015-2016 budget bill that became law without the governor’s signature in April and is tasked with examining the PlanCon program, determining its deficiencies, and how it can be improved.
The PlanCon process is a formula in which public schools, charter schools, and career and technology centers receive reimbursements for school construction and renovation.
Under PlanCon an eleven step mechanism documents a school system’s construction process, justifies the project to the public, ensures it complies with all regulations in Pennsylvania, and provides a certain amount of Commonwealth reimbursement.
Representatives stated the PlanCon process was brought up organically and has been around for a long time.
During the meeting one big concern from members of the committee was what about PlanCon can and should be changed going forward.
Jim Vogel, an architectural consultant and member of the board who gave the PlanCon overview, stated that a more flexible approach to design is preferable than any kind of cookie-cutter model—like those currently in place—since new school curriculums demand more modern, and easily adjustable designs.
“The idea of using one specific kind of cookie-cutter building turned out not to be quite as practical as one would have hoped,” added Danielle Mariano, director of the department’s bureau of budget and fiscal management.
“You are varying in your sites; you are varying in whether you are urban or rural.”
Sen. Browne questioned the reasoning PlanCon currently uses to determine reimbursement, especially given the evolution of school systems.
He mentioned that just because it worked then, does not mean it will necessarily work now.
“Those are the kind of conversations we will need to have,” he said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the committee also organized itself with Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh) elected the chair and Rep. Stanley Saylor (R-York) and Sec. of Education Pedro Rivera elected co-chairs.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the advisory committee has not scheduled additional meetings.