School and higher-ed construction get boost in state budgets

Increased overall emphasis on education in the Legislature, including new laws to reduce class size in grades K-3, is good news to contractors who build schools.

Although final legislation has not yet passed, both the House and Senate versions of the 2016 supplemental capital budgets include additional funds for school construction. The House version (HB 2380) includes an additional $12 million to build K-3 classrooms and $35 million for the School Construction Assistance Program, as well as funding for student housing and lab buildings at community and technical colleges across the state. AGC supports the additional school and higher-ed construction funds.

The House bill also includes a specific provision for modular classrooms: $10.8 million is provided to the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) to purchase modular classrooms for school districts for the purpose of supporting reduced class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. The modular classrooms may be constructed of cross-laminated timber (CLT) as part of a pilot program encouraging the use of CLT.

The House bill includes funding for certain higher ed projects:
   •  $45.7 million for a Student Housing building at the Bellevue College;
   •  $36.1 million for the Science, Engineering, Technology Building at Edmonds Community College;
   •  $32.1 million for the Learning Commons at the Whatcom Community College; and
   •  $19.5 million for the Gymnasium renovation and addition at Spokane Falls Community College.

Finally, the House bill provides $69 million for a new Utilities and Transportation Commission building. With this project the bill once again promotes the use of CLT, calling the building “a model for public buildings using cross laminated timber.”

In addition, a separate, bipartisan bill (HB 2968) in the House would transfer one-half of one percent of state revenues that are transferred to the state rainy-day fund each year to school construction, with an initial transfer of $186 million to build classrooms. The bill itself has yet to pass the House, but its provisions are included in the House’s 2016 supplemental operating budget.

The Senate version of the supplemental capital budget (SB 6201) includes an additional $56.4 million provided for K-12 public schools, $38 million for K-3 class-size reduction and $18 million for the School Construction Assistance Program. It also includes similar funds for the Bellevue College and Spokane Falls Community College projects. The Senate does not have a bill similar to the House bill that transfers funds from the rainy-day fund to school construction.

“Education funding is like a giant puzzle that the entire Legislature is working to solve. This is the brick-and-mortar piece that is critical to the whole picture,” said Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Differences between the House and Senate approaches will be ironed out within the next several days.

For more information contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.