Governor says $1 billion investment needed into Alabama school buildings

Published 7:54 am Friday, February 7, 2020

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is proposing a $1 billion school construction bond issue, the state’s largest capital improvement project in more than a decade.

The bond issue would be the largest through the Public School and College Authority since 2007 when lawmakers approved a $1.07 billion bond issue at the urging of then-Gov. Bob Riley.

Ivey first announced the project in her State of the State address on Tuesday night. She said schools could use the money for construction, safety improvements or technology upgrades.

“I urge the members of the Legislature to help us make this investment a top priority for Alabama’s future. Our children are counting on us,” Ivey said.

The bond issue will provide money to every city and county K-12 school system and to two- and four-year colleges. The money would be divided with 73% going to K-12 schools and 27% going to two- and four-year colleges.

Finance Director Kelly Butler said the governor’s proposed distribution formula would give every K-12 school system a base distribution of $200,000 and then add money based on the school system’s size and an equity school formula that tries to steer additional funds to poor school systems.

“It’s been since 2007 that there was a comprehensive PSCA bond issue. We believe and the governor believes it’s time to make a significant investment in capital in public schools,” Butler said.

At current interest rates, the bond issue would cost the state an estimated $80 million per year for 20 years, Butler estimated.

The Finance Department could not provide immediate estimates on what school systems would receive because the bill is still being finalized. In 2007, the bond issue provided amounts ranging from $51.5 million in Mobile County to $618,908 in Linden.

The measure will require legislative approval.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said lawmakers are discussing the proposed bond issue, including how the money will be distributed.

“These are some of the discussions that we are having right now,” he said. “We have not come to an agreement as to the fact that we’re ready, from a legislative perspective, to create the bond yet. We are still working on it.”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said Tuesday night that the bond issue is needed and “long overdue.”

“When you look around the state at some of your K-12 and higher education institutions, they have buildings that are really old and dilapidated,” Daniels said.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said he wants to assure rural schools and poorer school systems get a fair share of the dollars.

“I’ve got schools in my district when it rains, it leaks into the school,” Singleton said.