Four NC counties awarded $30M in grants to build new schools

Posted November 7, 2017 12:37 a.m. EST
Updated November 7, 2017 12:39 a.m. EST

— Four North Carolina counties – Camden, Clay, Gates and Jones – have been awarded $30 million in grant money to build new schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced Monday.

In a statement, Johnson said the grants will help the economically distressed counties "begin to address the critical school infrastructure needs in less populated parts of our state through projects that will begin construction within 12 months. Students in outdated – and in some cases, unsafe – buildings will benefit soon from these new facilities."

The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund, which includes more than $100 million over the next two years, was provided by the General Assembly to assist lower-wealth counties with their critical public school building capital needs. For this year and next year, funding will be available only to Tier 1 counties. In later years, Tier 2 counties will also be eligible.

The money, appropriated by the General Assembly through revenue from the state lottery, are capped at $15 million per project in Tier 1 counties. The law requires a local match of $1 for every $3 in grant funds.

The counties will spend the money as follows:

  • Camden County: $2.29 million for initial costs for a new high school to replace a structurally inadequate facility serving a third of all students in the county ($33.3 million total project cost)
  • Clay County: $10.2 million for a new primary-school facility (pre-K through second grade), enabling the district to reorganize grade levels to place all pre-K through eighth grade students in age-appropriate educational settings ($14 million total project cost)
  • Gates County: $2.5 million to replace a structurally inadequate middle school wing ($10.6 million total project cost)
  • Jones County: $15 million for a new pre-K through 12th grade campus to serve 60 percent of students in the district ($45 million total project cost)

County applications were reviewed based on priorities detailed in the law, including ability to generate revenue, high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and the extent to which a project will address critical deficiencies in adequately serving the current and future student population.

An emphasis was placed on projects that were far enough along in the planning process that construction could begin within 12 months. Counties that were not funded will be eligible to apply for grants in fiscal year 2018-19, when the available funding will total $75 million.

"As I travel across the state, I see the great need, and I understand the local struggle to fund these large capital projects," Johnson said. "I thank the General Assembly for addressing this need with a focus on equity and look forward to many more of these projects being funded next year."