When a school district undertakes a major construction project
and seeks reimbursement from the Commonwealth, a process known as PlanCon is
initiated. PlanCon, an acronym for Planning and Construction
Workbook, is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for Commonwealth
reimbursement. The PlanCon forms are designed to: (1) document a local school
district's planning process; (2) provide justification for a project to the
public; (3) ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations; and (4)
establish the level of state participation in the cost of the project.
A (PDF), Project Justification, provides the
description of a proposed project and the justification of its need.
Part B (PDF), Schematic Design, is a technical
review conference of the conceptual drawings, site plan and educational
specifications. The architect and a district administrator who is knowledgeable
about the project and the educational program must be present at the schematic
C (PDF), Site Acquisition, deals with the
acquisition of land for school building projects or the purchase of a building
for school or district administration office use. This part is completed only if
land is acquired or a building is purchased as part of the scope of the project.
D (PDF), Project Accounting Based on Estimates,
is concerned with estimated project costs. In this part, various "tests" of a
district's financial ability to make payments are performed, as required by
Section 21.51 of the State Board of Education Regulations. This part also
addresses the requirements for public hearings on school building projects, as
required by Sections 7-701.1 and 7-731 of the Public School Code of 1949, as
amended. PlanCon Part D also provides an estimate of state reimbursement.
E (PDF), Design Development, is a conference to
review the architectural aspects of a project when the design is fully
developed. The architect and a district administrator must be present at this
Part F (PDF), Construction Documents, is a
conference to review the bid specifications and drawings for the project and
documentation that other state and local agency requirements have been met or
will be met before entering into construction contracts. Departmental approval
of PlanCon Part F authorizes a district to receive bids and enter into
construction contracts. The architect and a district administrator must be
present at this review conference.
G (PDF), Project Accounting Based on Bids, is
concerned with actual construction bids. A project's eligibility for
reimbursement is ultimately determined at PlanCon Part G.
H (PDF), Project Financing, addresses the
financing used for a project. Calculation of the temporary reimbursable percent
for a project's financing occurs at PlanCon Part H. Once PlanCon Part H is
approved, reimbursement on a project commences.
(PDF), Interim Reporting, provides for the
reporting of change orders and/or supplemental contracts during construction.
J (PDF), Project Accounting Based on Final
Costs, is the final accounting for the project. The permanent reimbursable
percent is calculated at PlanCon Part J.
K (PDF), Project Refinancing, is used if a
reimbursable bond issue is refunded, refinanced or restructured.
Time Frame and Board Action Dates
The amount of time needed to complete the PlanCon process depends on the
design and construction timeline established by the local school board. The
processing of a PlanCon project may also be affected by the permitting and
approval requirements of local, state and regional agencies. Typically, the time
frame for a project to proceed from PlanCon Part A to PlanCon Part G is 9-12
months. All PlanCon parts must be approved by the local school board and
submitted in sequential order for all second, third and fourth
class districts unless indicated otherwise in the PlanCon
General Instructions (PDF).
Standards and Basic Education Circulars
The following is a list of laws, regulations, standards and Basic Education
Circulars (BEC) which pertain to the PlanCon process:
- Articles 7 and 25 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949;
- Chapter 21, School Buildings, of the State Board of Education
- Chapter 349, School Building Standards, of the Department of Education
24 P.S. § 25-2574, "Reimbursements for School Construction Bond Issues,"
provides information on state reimbursement for bond issues funding school
construction projects; and
24 P.S. § 7-733, "School Construction Reimbursement Criteria," contains the
following requirements for reimbursable school construction projects:
- CURRENT STANDARDS - A condition of reimbursement is to bring the entire
building up to prevailing educational and reasonably current construction
- DISTRICT-WIDE FACILITY STUDY - A district-wide facility study for all
district facilities must have been completed prior to the submission of PlanCon
Part A and within two years of that date. Refer to Attachment C in the PlanCon
Part A instructions for additional information on district-wide facility study
- WOOD CONSTRUCTION - For any project involving the renovation of a
multi-storied building with a Department of Labor and Industry classification of
wood frame or ordinary construction (i.e., interior framing is partially or
wholly of wood), a district must describe the plans and methods designed to
address the health and safety issues related to this type of construction;
- 20-YEAR RULE - Buildings may only qualify for school construction
reimbursement every twenty years at a minimum unless a variance is
requested and approved. To determine the applicability of the "20-year"
rule on a project building, calculate the number of years from the bid opening
date of the previous reimbursable project to the bid opening date of the planned
- 20% RULE FOR ALTERATION COSTS - An alteration project may not be
eligible for reimbursement where the costs for alterations are less than 20% of
the project building's replacement value unless a variance is requested
and approved. This rule does not apply to area vocational-technical
schools (AVTSs) or to leased buildings.
A request for a variance from the departmental policies in BEC 24 P.S. §
7-733, except for the "20% Rule for Alteration Costs", must be submitted in the
form of a resolution of the board of school directors. A request for a variance
from the "20% Rule for Alteration Costs" may be submitted on the applicable
PlanCon forms in PlanCon Parts A, D and G. Any request for variance must
document the reasons why the variance should be granted.
Act 34 of 1973
Act 34 of 1973 requires that a public hearing be held on all new
construction and substantial additions for second, third and fourth class school
districts. A building addition is considered substantial when the new
architectural area divided by the existing structure's architectural area is
greater than 20 percent.
Act 34 applies only to costs for new construction. The legal requirements
do not address the costs for alterations to existing structures. A second Act 34
hearing is required if specified costs based on bids exceed by eight percent or
greater those costs based on estimates. An Act 34 referendum must be held if and
only if certain costs exceed a project building's calculated referendum limit.
APPROVAL OF CONSTRUCTION
DOCUMENTS AND REIMBURSEMENT DETERMINATION
Section 731 of the Public School Code of 1949 states that no public school
building shall be contracted for, constructed, or reconstructed in any school
district of the second, third, or fourth class until plans and specifications
have been approved by the Department of Education. Departmental approval of
final plans and specifications only occurs upon the issuance of written approval
of PlanCon Part F, Construction Documents. For the Philadelphia City School
District (First Class) and Pittsburgh School District (First Class A), PlanCon
Part F must also be approved by the Department prior to entering into contracts
for a school construction project to qualify for state reimbursement.
Failure to comply with the applicable statutory or Departmental
requirement will result in denial of reimbursement for a project.
Departmental approval of PlanCon Part F for a project does
not guarantee reimbursement for that project. A project is
deemed eligible for reimbursement only upon written
Departmental approval of PlanCon Part G, Project Accounting Based on Bids.
Reimbursement for School Construction Projects
In general, reimbursement for school construction projects is based on the
capacity of a building which can be justified by present or projected student
enrollment. Classroom capacity is normally calculated on the basis of 25
students per regular classroom. (Other values are assigned to laboratories,
gymnasiums, art rooms, music rooms, etc.) For example, if a district has a 20
classroom elementary building, we would normally consider the building to have a
full-time equivalent capacity of 500 (20 x 25).
The capacity in this example would have to be supported by current or
projected enrollment. This capacity is then converted to rated pupil capacity.
The term "rated pupil capacity" has no significance other than it is a method
for calculating reimbursement. An elementary building with a full-time
equivalent capacity of 500 is deemed to have a "rated pupil capacity" of 700.
(Refer to PlanCon Part A instructions for conversion charts.)
For a new building, reimbursement is calculated on the lesser of (1) the
product of the rated pupil capacity multiplied by a legislated per pupil dollar
amount (24 P.S. Section 25-2574), or (2) structure costs plus architect's fee
(six percent maximum) and essential movable fixtures and equipment. To the
lesser of (1) or (2) above, additional funding for certain types of projects and
specified eligible ancillary costs is added. Additional information about recent
legislative changes affecting school construction reimbursement follows this
For a building addition or additions/alterations, reimbursement is
determined similar to that for a new building. The rated pupil capacity for the
total building is multiplied by the legislated per pupil dollar amount to arrive
at a total reimbursable amount. The gross area of the addition is divided by the
gross area of the completed facility to arrive at the proration of the addition
to the total building. The same method is used to determine the proration of the
existing building to the completed building. These values are then compared to
the actual bid costs of the addition and renovation work. To the lesser of the
maximum reimbursable formula amount or actual bid costs, additional funding for
certain types of projects and specified eligible ancillary costs is added.
Additional information about recent legislative changes affecting school
construction reimbursement follows this section.
For alterations to existing structures, reimbursement for roof replacement
and asbestos abatement (if applicable) are each limited to twenty percent (20%)
of the remaining assignable alteration costs. Reimbursement for site development
is limited to ten percent (10%) of adjusted structure costs for new
construction; site development for existing structures is non-reimbursable. For
all non-vocational projects, reimbursement for movable fixtures and equipment is
limited to five percent (5%) of adjusted structure costs; for all vocational
projects, reimbursement for movable fixtures and equipment is limited to twenty
percent (20%) of adjusted structure costs. Both estimated and actual costs for
movable fixtures and equipment, and architect's fee thereon, are not considered
for reimbursement until PlanCon Part J, Project Accounting Based on Final Costs,
is processed by the Division of School Facilities.
For new construction as well as alterations to existing buildings, the
reimbursable project amount is then divided by the total project costs to
determine a reimbursable percent. A five tenths of one percent (0.5%) reduction
in the reimbursable percent is made until final project accounting.
For projects financed by the issuance of debt, the reimbursable percent is
multiplied by the school district's bond issue (principal and interest payments)
to determine the level of Commonwealth participation in the cost of the project.
The Commonwealth's share is then multiplied by a measure of a district's wealth,
i.e., the greater of Market Value Aid Ratio (MVAR), Capital Account
Reimbursement Fraction (CARF) or Density Factor, to determine the net state
subsidy. An application for state subsidy must be submitted for each scheduled
payment on the approved payment schedule after the district has actually made
For projects financed by cash, i.e. without the issuance of debt, the
reimbursable percentage is multiplied by the total project costs for the school
construction project to determine the level of Commonwealth participation in the
cost of the project. The Commonwealth's share is then multiplied by a measure of
a district's wealth, i.e., the greater of Market Value Aid Ratio (MVAR), Capital
Account Reimbursement Fraction (CARF) or Density Factor, to determine the net
If a project is financed by cash, i.e., without the issuance of debt, no
reimbursement will be paid until PlanCon Part J, Project Accounting Based on
Final Costs, is submitted and approved by the Department unless otherwise
approved by this office. At PlanCon Part J, a certification must be provided
indicating that, in accordance with Section 2575.1 of the Public School Code of
1949, the school district/AVTS is providing full payment on account of the
approved building construction cost without incurring debt or without incurring
a lease. For purposes of calculating reimbursement, bond proceeds that are
transferred to the general fund and then used for a reimbursable construction
project are still considered bond proceeds.
The above explanation is intended to be a general introduction to the
reimbursement calculations used for school construction projects.
Recent Legislative Changes
Affecting school Construction Reimbursement
Act 46 of 2005 increased the reimbursement rates for eligible projects,
revised the vocational reimbursement formula and provided additional funding for
certain projects. The changes apply to projects for which the general
construction contract is awarded subsequent to January 1, 2005, and for approved
school building projects for which the general construction contract was awarded
but for which a lease or general obligation bond resolution was not approved by
the Department of Education prior to January 1, 2005. Department approval of a
project's financing occurs at PlanCon Part H, Project Financing.
For eligible projects, the applicable per pupil reimbursement amounts are
$4,700 for elementary capacity, $6,200 for secondary capacity, and $7,600 for
vocational capacity. The base reimbursement formula for eligible
vocational-technical projects now does not include bond interest in determining
the approved building construction cost.
In addition, additional funding is provided for: (1) projects constructed
and based on an approved school facility design published on the Department's
School Design Clearinghouse (currently under development); (2) projects where
the general construction contract alters or adds to an existing building; and
(3) school buildings receiving a silver, gold or platinum certification from the
United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design Green Building Rating System (LEED-NC™) certification or two, three or
four Green Globes™ certification on or after January 1, 2005. Information on the
School Design Clearinghouse, and LEED and Green Globes certification follow this
To receive the additional funding for a project constructed and based on an
approved facility design on the clearinghouse, the architect will need to
certify at PlanCon Part J, Project Accounting Based on Final Costs, that the
project actually was constructed and based on a clearinghouse design. To ensure
design conformance with an approved school design published on the
clearinghouse, the Department may inspect a project building before any
additional funding for a project is included in the calculation of the permanent
reimbursable percent(s). If a project fails to conform to an approved
clearinghouse design, reimbursement will be calculated without the additional
To receive the additional funding for a school building receiving a silver,
gold or platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council's
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System
(LEED-NC™), a copy of the certification must be provided with the PlanCon Part J
submission. To receive the additional funding for a school building receiving
two, three or four Green Globes™ certification, a copy of the third party
verification of points claimed in the official certification documentation must
be provided with the PlanCon Part J submission. Failure to obtain LEED-NC™ or
Green Globe certification within one year of building acceptance will result in
the calculation of reimbursement without this additional funding.
As per 24 P.S. Section 25-2574 (c.5), reimbursement for an approved school
construction project can not exceed total project costs. For School Design
Clearinghouse and LEED projects, the sum of $470 multiplied by the elementary
rated pupil capacity and $620 multiplied by the secondary and vocational rated
pupil capacities is added to the approved building construction cost. To
calculate the additional funding for additions and/or alterations to an existing
building, the appraisal value of the existing building is subtracted from the
sum of $470 times the elementary rated pupil capacity and $620 for the secondary
and vocational rated pupil capacities (minimum value equals zero).
For reimbursement purposes only, the appraisal value of an existing
building is calculated as follows:
- Multiply the rated pupil capacity for the entire building by the
applicable per pupil reimbursement rates to determine the reimbursable formula
amount for the total building;
- Divide the architectural area of the additions by the architectural
area of the total building, and then multiply this fraction by the reimbursable
formula amount for the total building calculated in Step 1 to determine the
formula amount for the additions; and
- Subtract the reimbursable formula amount for the additions and the
adjusted alteration costs from the reimbursable formula amount for the entire
building. The result equals the appraisal value of the existing building;
minimum equals zero. Refer to the PlanCon Part D forms for the line-by-line calculations.
By law, three appraisers must be appointed for projects involving additions
and/or alterations to an existing building. For reimbursement purposes
only, this office will assume, unless advised otherwise, that the
district/AVTS representative is the appraiser for the district/AVTS, the
appraiser for the Department is the chief of the Division of School Facilities,
and the appraiser appointed jointly by the Department and the district/AVTS is
the project architect.
By law, reimbursable rental or sinking fund charges on indebtedness is
limited to costs for building construction, site acquisition, rough grading and
sanitary sewage disposal, and the interest on such costs. Since fees charged for
bond underwriting, financial and legal consultation, and other related financing
costs are not included in the aforementioned costs nor are they interest, these
costs are not eligible for reimbursement. Accordingly, underwriter's fee,
original issue discount and original issue premium will not be included
in the calculation of the reimbursable percent on any bond issues or leases
financing a project affected by the recent school construction reimbursement
changes. Also, due to these recent changes, original issue discount and original
issue premium must be reported under revenue sources.
To assist school districts in meeting their facility needs, the Department
is in the process of creating the School Design Clearinghouse (SDC), which, once
operational, will be accessed via the Department's website (www.education.pa.gov), to showcase new elementary and
secondary school building designs that meet minimum design standards established
by the Department. The information posted on the SDC website will provide school
districts and design professionals with information that may lead to cost and
time savings on future projects by increasing access to design and cost
information on recently completed PlanCon projects.
Districts are encouraged to submit information on new school buildings
approved for state funding thru the PlanCon process. In order for a school
building design to be published on the SDC website, the building must be fully
occupied, preferably for at least one school year following the end of
construction. PlanCon projects still in design and/or under construction are not
eligible for consideration.
To be published on the School Design Clearinghouse, a project must meet
design standards, established by the Department, which focus on
cost-effectiveness, academics, and health and safety. As stated previously,
projects constructed and based on an approved school facility design published
on the SDC website will be eligible for additional state funding. Detailed
information on the School Design Clearinghouse will be available in the fall of
High Performance Green Schools
High performance buildings provide a healthier environment for
their occupants and enhance their performance while significantly reducing
annual operating costs. Moreover, the cost of building a high performance school
is not inherently higher than that of a conventional school. However, the
integrated design process for delivering a high performance building differs
significantly from the conventional linear design process. Using an integrated
design process requires collaborative participation from the outset by all the
stakeholders including the building owner and the design professionals from each
discipline to develop the building as a single integrated system.
Until design professionals become more experienced in
delivering high performance schools, the cost is likely to be slightly higher
than for a conventional school. To help accommodate this reality and to
accelerate the learning process for delivering high performance green buildings,
schools that achieve LEED ratings at the silver level or above OR two,
three or four Green Globes certification are eligible for additional
reimbursement as an incentive to building facilities which provide an enhanced
learning environment while minimizing operating costs borne by taxpayers.
Information on LEED and Green Globes certification follows
this section. In selecting the LEED and Green Globes points to be pursued, it is
strongly recommended that the design team aim for points which have multiple
impacts and which maximize return on investment. Areas of best value include
reducing energy and water usage, daylighting, and improving indoor air quality.
Implementing proper daylighting strategies, for instance, will improve student
performance while reducing energy usage and cost.
Information and resources on high performance schools can be
found at www.gggc.state.pa.us on the Governor's Green
Government Council's website by clicking on both "Schools" and "Buildings." The
site includes links to the United States Green Building Council's LEED web page
and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star for K-12 School
Districts program, as well as an award-winning online video on high performance
green schools, called "Better Places to Learn."
The United States Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design) rating system is a voluntary consensus-based
national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.
Buildings rated under the LEED system achieve certification at one of four
levels – certified, silver, gold or platinum – depending on the number of points
gained for performance in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency,
energy and atmosphere, materials and resource, indoor environmental efficiency,
and innovation and design process. For eligible projects to receive the
additional funding, a copy of the LEED certification must be provided at PlanCon
Part J, Project Accounting Based on Final Costs. Information and resources on
the LEED rating system can be found at www.usgbc.org on the United States Green Building
The Green Building Initiative's Green Globes rating system is
an interactive design guidance, environmental assessment and rating tool
addressing sustainability issues on buildings during design and construction.
The Green Globes system provides a building rating of one, two, three or four
globes based on the percentage of total points achieved in seven areas of the
building and design process – project management, site, energy, water,
resources, emissions, effluents and other impacts, and indoor environment. To
achieve a Green Globes rating, the building project must be third party verified
by a Green Building Initiative authorized verifier. For eligible projects to
receive the additional funding, a copy of the official certification
documentation from the awarding body, based on third party verification of
points claimed, must be provided at PlanCon Part J, Project Accounting Based on
Final Costs. Information and resources on the Green Globes rating system can be
found at www.thegbi.org on the Green Building Initiative
Acquisition of Land and Buildings Eligible for
Reimbursement for a site is available under two circumstances:
the proposed site is being acquired five or more years in advance of its
projected need (called "an advance site acquisition"); or the site is being
purchased for a current PlanCon project. Reimbursement for advance site
acquisitions is contingent on the district's receipt of all requisite approvals
for the site.
Land acquired solely to expand parking lots, athletic fields
or community recreational areas does not qualify for state reimbursement. Such
acquisitions, however, may be reimbursable if they are part of a PlanCon project
for alterations, additions or new construction. State funding is limited to the
costs associated with the acquisition of land and improvements thereon; there is
no state funding available for rights-of-way or easements.
When a local board of education decides to acquire land, the
primary role of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is to determine the
state reimbursement for site acquisition. The ultimate decision to acquire
property rests with the school board. If a school district decides to seek
reimbursement for site costs, PlanCon Part C must be completed. Written
PDE approval must be obtained prior to the date of settlement or the filing date
of the Declaration of Taking if reimbursement is being sought.
PDE-Reimbursable Acres are calculated as follows for each
school building located on the site: 1 acre for every 100 full-time equivalent
(FTE) plus 10 acres for an elementary school, 20 acres for a middle school or 35
acres for a secondary or comprehensive vocational building or 15 acres for a
part-time vocational building. Acreage contiguous to the property to be acquired
that is already owned by the district is subtracted from this calculated
allowance. No acreage or FTE allowance is provided for District Administration
Leases Eligible for State Reimbursement
Under Section 703.1 of the Public School Code of 1949, as
amended, school districts have the authority to lease for five or more years
existing buildings or buildings constructed or renovated for school use. Section
2574.2 provides reimbursement for buildings leased under Section 703.1.