2017 New Jersey Revised Statutes
TITLE 18A - EDUCATION
Section 18A:7G-5 - Undertaking and financing of school facilities in certain districts.

Universal Citation: NJ Rev Stat § 18A:7G-5 (2017)

18A:7G-5 Undertaking and financing of school facilities in certain districts.

5. a. The development authority shall undertake and the financing authority shall finance the school facilities projects of SDA districts.

b. In the case of a district other than an SDA district, State support for the project shall be determined pursuant to section 9 or section 15 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-9 or C.18A:7G-15), as applicable.

c. Notwithstanding any provision of N.J.S.18A:18A-16 to the contrary, the procedures for obtaining approval of a school facilities project shall be as set forth in this act; provided that any district whose school facilities project is not constructed by the development authority shall also be required to comply with the provisions of N.J.S.18A:18A-16.

d. (1) Any district seeking to initiate a school facilities project shall apply to the commissioner for approval of the project. The application may include, but not be limited to: a description of the school facilities project; a schematic drawing of the project or, at the option of the district, preliminary plans and specifications; a delineation and description of each of the functional components of the project; educational specifications detailing the programmatic needs of each proposed space; the number of unhoused students to be housed in the project; the area allowances per FTE student as calculated pursuant to section 8 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-8); and the estimated cost to complete the project as determined by the district.

(2) In the case of an SDA district school facilities project, based upon its educational priority ranking and the Statewide strategic plan established pursuant to subsection m. of this section, the commissioner may authorize the development authority to undertake preconstruction activities which may include, but need not be limited to, site identification, investigation, and acquisition, feasibility studies, land-related design work, design work, site remediation, demolition, and acquisition of temporary facilities. Upon receipt of the authorization, the development authority may initiate the preconstruction activities required to prepare the application for commissioner approval of the school facilities project.

e. The commissioner shall review each proposed school facilities project to determine whether it is consistent with the district's long-range facilities plan and whether it complies with the facilities efficiency standards and the area allowances per FTE student derived from those standards; and in the case of an SDA district the commissioner shall also review the project's educational priority ranking and the Statewide strategic plan developed pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection m. of this section; and in the case of a district other than an SDA district the commissioner shall also review the project's priority pursuant to paragraph (4) of subsection m. of this section. The commissioner shall make a decision on a district's application within 90 days from the date he determines that the application is fully and accurately completed and that all information necessary for a decision has been filed by the district, or from the date of the last revision made by the district. If the commissioner is not able to make a decision within 90 days, he shall notify the district in writing explaining the reason for the delay and indicating the date on which a decision on the project will be made, provided that the date shall not be later than 60 days from the expiration of the original 90 days set forth in this subsection. If the decision is not made by the subsequent date indicated by the commissioner, then the project shall be deemed approved and the preliminary eligible costs for new construction shall be calculated by using the proposed square footage of the building as the approved area for unhoused students.

f. If the commissioner determines that the school facilities project complies with the facilities efficiency standards and the district's long-range facilities plan and does not exceed the area allowance per FTE student derived from those standards, the commissioner shall calculate the preliminary eligible costs of the project pursuant to the formulas set forth in section 7 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-7); except that (1) in the case of a county special services school district or a county vocational school district, the commissioner shall calculate the preliminary eligible costs to equal the amount determined by the board of school estimate and approved by the board of chosen freeholders pursuant to section 14 of P.L.1971, c.271 (C.18A:46-42) or N.J.S.18A:54-31 as appropriate, and (2) in the case of an SDA district, the commissioner shall calculate the preliminary eligible costs to equal the estimated cost as determined by the development authority.

g. If the commissioner determines that the school facilities project is inconsistent with the facilities efficiency standards or exceeds the area allowances per FTE student derived from those standards, the commissioner shall notify the district.

(1) The commissioner shall approve area allowances in excess of the area allowances per FTE student derived from the facilities efficiency standards if the board of education or State district superintendent, as appropriate, demonstrates that school facilities needs related to required programs cannot be addressed within the facilities efficiency standards and that all other proposed spaces are consistent with those standards. The commissioner shall approve area allowances in excess of the area allowances per FTE student derived from the facilities efficiency standards if the additional area allowances are necessary to accommodate centralized facilities to be shared among two or more school buildings within the district and the centralized facilities represent a more cost effective alternative.

(2) The commissioner may waive a facilities efficiency standard if the board of education or State district superintendent, as appropriate, demonstrates to the commissioner's satisfaction that the waiver will not adversely affect the educational adequacy of the school facility, including the ability to deliver the programs and services necessary to enable all students to achieve the core curriculum content standards.

(3) To house the district's central administration, a district may request an adjustment to the approved areas for unhoused students of 2.17 square feet for each FTE student in the projected total district school enrollment if the proposed administrative offices will be housed in a school facility and the district demonstrates either that the existing central administrative offices are obsolete or that it is more practical to convert those offices to instructional space. To the extent that existing administrative space will continue to be used for administrative purposes, the space shall be included in the formulas set forth in section 7 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-7).

If the commissioner approves excess facilities efficiency standards or additional area allowances pursuant to paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection, the commissioner shall calculate the preliminary eligible costs based upon the additional area allowances or excess facilities efficiency standards pursuant to the formulas set forth in section 7 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-7). In the event that the commissioner does not approve the excess facilities efficiency standards or additional area allowances, the district may either: modify its submission so that the school facilities project meets the facilities efficiency standards; or pay for the excess costs.

(4) The commissioner shall approve spaces in excess of, or inconsistent with, the facilities efficiency standards, hereinafter referred to as nonconforming spaces, upon a determination by the district that the spaces are necessary to comply with State or federal law concerning individuals with disabilities, including that the spaces are necessary to provide in-district programs and services for current disabled pupils who are being served in out-of-district placements or in-district programs and services for the projected disabled pupil population. A district may apply for additional State aid for nonconforming spaces that will permit pupils with disabilities to be educated to the greatest extent possible in the same buildings or classes with their nondisabled peers. The nonconforming spaces may: (a) allow for the return of pupils with disabilities from private facilities; (b) permit the retention of pupils with disabilities who would otherwise be placed in private facilities; (c) provide space for regional programs in a host school building that houses both disabled and nondisabled pupils; and (d) provide space for the coordination of regional programs by a county special services school district, educational services commission, jointure commission, or other agency authorized by law to provide regional educational services in a school building that houses both disabled and nondisabled pupils. A district's State support ratio shall be adjusted to equal the lesser of the sum of its district aid percentage as defined in section 3 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-3) plus 0.25, or 100% for any nonconforming spaces approved by the commissioner pursuant to this paragraph.

h. Upon approval of a school facilities project and determination of the preliminary eligible costs:

(1) In the case of a district other than an SDA district, the commissioner shall notify the district whether the school facilities project is approved and, if so approved, the preliminary eligible costs and the excess costs, if any. Following the determination of preliminary eligible costs and the notification of project approval, the district may appeal to the commissioner for an increase in those costs if the detailed plans and specifications completed by a design professional for the school facilities project indicate that the cost of constructing that portion of the project which is consistent with the facilities efficiency standards and does not exceed the area allowances per FTE student exceeds the preliminary eligible costs as determined by the commissioner for the project by 10% or more. The district shall file its appeal within 30 days of the preparation of the plans and specifications. If the district chooses not to file an appeal, then the final eligible costs shall equal the preliminary eligible costs.

The appeal shall outline the reasons why the preliminary eligible costs calculated for the project are inadequate and estimate the amount of the adjustment which needs to be made to the preliminary eligible costs. The commissioner shall forward the appeal information to the development authority for its review and recommendation. If the additional costs are the result of factors that are within the control of the district or are the result of design factors that are not required to meet the facilities efficiency standards, the development authority shall recommend to the commissioner that the preliminary eligible costs be accepted as the final eligible costs. If the development authority determines the additional costs are not within the control of the district or are the result of design factors required to meet the facilities efficiency standards, the development authority shall recommend to the commissioner a final eligible cost based on its experience for districts with similar characteristics, provided that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, the commissioner shall not approve an adjustment to the preliminary eligible costs which exceeds 10% of the preliminary eligible costs. The commissioner shall make a determination on the appeal within 30 days of its receipt. If the commissioner does not approve an adjustment to the school facilities project's preliminary eligible costs, the commissioner shall issue his findings in writing on the reasons for the denial and on why the preliminary eligible costs as originally calculated are sufficient.

(2) In the case of an SDA district, the commissioner shall promptly prepare and submit to the development authority a preliminary project report which shall consist, at a minimum, of the following information: a complete description of the school facilities project; the actual location of the project; the total square footage of the project together with a breakdown of total square footage by functional component; the preliminary eligible costs of the project; the project's priority ranking determined pursuant to subsection m. of this section; any other factors to be considered by the development authority in undertaking the project; and the name and address of the person from the district to contact in regard to the project.

i. Upon receipt by the development authority of the preliminary project report, the development authority, upon consultation with the district, shall prepare detailed plans and specifications and schedules which contain the development authority's estimated cost and schedule to complete the school facilities project. The development authority shall transmit to the commissioner its recommendations in regard to the project which shall, at a minimum, contain the detailed plans and specifications; whether the school facilities project can be completed within the preliminary eligible costs; and any other factors which the development authority determines should be considered by the commissioner.

(1) In the event that the development authority determines that the school facilities project can be completed within the preliminary eligible costs: the final eligible costs shall be deemed to equal the preliminary eligible costs; the commissioner shall be deemed to have given final approval to the project; and the preliminary project report shall be deemed to be the final project report delivered to the development authority pursuant to subsection j. of this section.

(2) In the event that the development authority determines that the school facilities project cannot be completed within the preliminary eligible costs, prior to the submission of its recommendations to the commissioner, the development authority shall, in consultation with the district and the commissioner, determine whether changes can be made in the project which will result in a reduction in costs while at the same time meeting the facilities efficiency standards approved by the commissioner.

(a) If the development authority determines that changes in the school facilities project are possible so that the project can be accomplished within the scope of the preliminary eligible costs while still meeting the facilities efficiency standards, the development authority shall so advise the commissioner, whereupon the commissioner shall: calculate the final eligible costs to equal the preliminary eligible costs; give final approval to the project with the changes noted; and issue a final project report to the development authority pursuant to subsection j. of this section.

(b) If the development authority determines that it is not possible to make changes in the school facilities project so that it can be completed within the preliminary eligible costs either because the additional costs are the result of factors outside the control of the district or the additional costs are required to meet the facilities efficiency standards, the development authority shall recommend to the commissioner that the preliminary eligible costs be increased accordingly, whereupon the commissioner shall: calculate the final eligible costs to equal the sum of the preliminary eligible costs plus the increase recommended by the development authority; give final approval to the project; and issue a final project report to the development authority pursuant to subsection j. of this section.

(c) If the additional costs are the result of factors that are within the control of the district or are the result of design factors that are not required to meet the facilities efficiency standards or approved pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection g. of this section, the development authority shall recommend to the commissioner that the preliminary eligible costs be accepted, whereupon the commissioner shall: calculate the final eligible costs to equal the preliminary eligible costs and specify the excess costs which are to be borne by the district; give final approval to the school facilities project; and issue a final project report to the development authority pursuant to subsection j. of this section; provided that the commissioner may approve final eligible costs which are in excess of the preliminary eligible costs if, in his judgment, the action is necessary to meet the educational needs of the district.

(d) For a school facilities project undertaken by the development authority, the development authority shall be responsible for any costs of construction, but only from the proceeds of bonds issued by the financing authority pursuant to P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-1 et al.) and P.L.2007, c.137 (C.52:18A-235 et al.), which exceed the amount originally projected by the development authority and approved for financing by the development authority, provided that the excess is the result of an underestimate of labor or materials costs by the development authority. After receipt by the development authority of the final project report, the district shall be responsible only for the costs associated with changes, if any, made at the request of the district to the scope of the school facilities project.

j. The development authority shall not commence the construction of a school facilities project unless the commissioner transmits to the development authority a final project report and the district complies with the approval requirements for the local share, if any, pursuant to section 11 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-11). The final project report shall contain all of the information contained in the preliminary project report and, in addition, shall contain: the final eligible costs; the excess costs, if any; the total costs which equals the final eligible costs plus excess costs, if any; the State share; and the local share.

k. For the SDA districts, the State share shall be 100% of the final eligible costs. Except as otherwise provided pursuant to section 9 of P.L.2000, c.72 (C.18A:7G-9) , for all other districts, the State share shall be an amount equal to the district aid percentage; except that the State share shall not be less than 40% of the final eligible costs.

If any district which is included in district factor group A or B, other than an SDA district, is having difficulty financing the local share of a school facilities project, the district may apply to the commissioner to receive 100% State support for the project and the commissioner may request the approval of the Legislature to increase the State share of the project to 100%.

l. The local share for school facilities projects constructed by the authority or a redevelopment entity shall equal the final eligible costs plus any excess costs less the State share.

m. (1) Within 90 days of the effective date of P.L.2007, c.137 (C.52:18A-235 et al.), the commissioner shall develop an educational facilities needs assessment for each SDA district. The assessment shall be updated periodically by the commissioner in accordance with the schedule the commissioner deems appropriate for the district; except that each assessment shall at a minimum be updated within five years of the development of the district's most recent prior educational facilities needs assessment. The assessment shall be transmitted to the development authority to be used to initiate the planning activities required prior to the establishment of the educational priority ranking of school facilities projects pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection. (2) Following the approval of an SDA district's long-range facilities plan or of an amendment to that plan, but prior to authorization of preconstruction activities for a school facilities project included in the plan or amendment, the commissioner shall establish, in consultation with the SDA district, an educational priority ranking of all school facilities projects in the SDA district based upon the commissioner's determination of critical need in accordance with priority project categories developed by the commissioner. The priority project categories shall include, but not be limited to, health and safety, overcrowding in the early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, spaces necessary to provide in-district programs and services for current disabled students who are being served in out-of-district placements or in-district programs and services for the projected disabled student population, rehabilitation, and educational adequacy.

(3) Upon the commissioner's determination of the educational priority ranking of school facilities projects in SDA districts pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection, the development authority, in consultation with the commissioner, the SDA districts, and the governing bodies of the municipalities in which the SDA districts are situate, shall establish a Statewide strategic plan to be used in the sequencing of SDA district school facilities projects based upon the projects' educational priority rankings and issues which impact the development authority's ability to complete the projects including, but not limited to, the construction schedule and other appropriate factors. The development authority shall revise the Statewide strategic plan and the sequencing of SDA district school facilities projects in accordance with that plan no less than once every five years.

Any amendment to an SDA district's long-range facilities plan that is submitted to the commissioner in the period between the five-year updates of the long-range facilities plan shall be considered by the development authority, in consultation with the commissioner, for incorporation into the Statewide strategic plan. In making a determination on whether or not to amend the Statewide strategic plan, the development authority shall consider the cost of the amendment, the impact of the amendment upon the school development plans for other districts, and other appropriate factors.

(4) In the case of a district other than an SDA district, the commissioner shall establish a priority process for the financing of school facilities projects based upon the commissioner's determination of critical need in accordance with priority project categories developed by the commissioner. The priority project categories shall include, but not be limited to, health and safety, overcrowding in the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, spaces necessary to provide in-district programs and services for current disabled students who are being served in out-of-district placements or in-district programs and services for the projected disabled student population, and full-day kindergarten facilities in the case of school districts required to provide full-day preschool pursuant to section 12 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-54).

n. The provisions of the "Public School Contracts Law," N.J.S.18A:18A-1 et seq., shall be applicable to any school facilities project constructed by a district but shall not be applicable to projects constructed by the development authority or a redevelopment entity pursuant to the provisions of this act.

o. In the case of a school facilities project of a district other than an SDA district, any proceeds of school bonds issued by the district for the purpose of funding the project which remain unspent upon completion of the project shall be used by the district to reduce the outstanding principal amount of the school bonds.

p. Upon completion by the development authority of a school facilities project, if the cost of construction and completion of the project is less than the total costs, the district shall be entitled to receive a portion of the local share based on a pro rata share of the difference based on the ratio of the State share to the local share.

q. The development authority shall determine the cause of any costs of construction which exceed the amount originally projected by the development authority and approved for financing by the financing authority.

r. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2007, c.137).

s. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2007, c.137).

L.2000, c.72, s.5; amended 2005, c.235, s.32; 2006, c.47, s.91; 2007, c.137, s.20; 2007, c.260, s.41; 2008, c.39, s.2; 2009, c.185, s.1.

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