Roger Good: No such thing as ‘free money’
As a member of the Colorado Department of Education’s Capital Construction Assistance Board (CCAB) charged with administering the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant program, I would like to provide additional facts and clarification to the Steamboat Today article (“Hayden eyes new facilities”) in which the reporter wrote the Hayden School District may be applying for “free money” to build new school facilities.
To make it as clear as possible that there is no such thing as “free money” when it comes to the construction of school facilities, please consider the following information when it comes to the taxes and other sources of money used in the BEST grant program.
In fiscal year 2015-16, the total monies available in Colorado for BEST grants was approximately $156.5 million. That limited pool of money in the BEST Assistance Fund came from four revenue sources:
• State Land Trust funds (timber/mineral leases on public school lands) generated $65.8 million (42 percent).
• Marijuana excise taxes generated $80 million (52 percent).
($40 million cap limit plus a one-time $40 million from Proposition BB passed in November 2015)
• Colorado Lottery spillover funds generated $8 million (5 percent).
• Interest earned from the assistance fund generated $2.6 million (2 percent).
For more on funding sources, see: https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/capconstfinancial.
BEST grants consist of three major categories:
• Cash grants are typically used to fund smaller projects, such as roofs, boiler replacements and fire alarms.
• Lease-purchase grants are typically used to fund larger projects, such as new schools, major renovations and additions. These grants are financed and financing is repaid with future assistance fund revenues.
• Emergency grants are used for an unanticipated event that threatens the health or safety of a building’s occupants or renders all or a significant portion of a building unusable for educational purposes.
Significantly, each school district must generate a percentage of the funding to qualify for a BEST grant. While the calculation is somewhat complex, the current year projection ranges from a low of 5 percent to a high of 88 percent.
For example, Steamboat Springs would have to raise 79 percent, Hayden 57 percent and Soroco 45 percent. For more on school district minimum matching calculations for BEST grant applicants, see: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/ccacurrentmatchpercent and https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/ccabestmatchcalculation.
As is apparent from the above information, the BEST grant program funds are not “free money.” As it is in fact a highly competitive grant program.
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