In November 2022, the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Schools Development Authority shared that regular operating districts would be able to apply for $350 million in grant project funding appropriated to NJSDA as a result of P.L.2022, c.18. That notice was intended “to give districts adequate time to plan their proposed projects.”
Regular operating districts can now apply for these grants, which will go toward funding critical operational building needs, including school facilities projects, emergent needs and capital maintenance requirements, according to a joint advisory from the NJDOE and the NJSDA.
The application period began Jan. 30 and lasts until May 1. The NJDOE will determine eligibility within 90 days after the deadline.
Over 550 regular operating districts are eligible to apply for a grant, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office. Funds may be used to address health and safety needs – such as improving air quality to help protect against the spread of infectious diseases, essential upgrades or repairs and other similar projects.
Districts are eligible to receive at least 40% of approved eligible project costs. The funding percentage will be based on each district’s district aid percentage. Districts must demonstrate local matching funds for the balance of project costs. Importantly, projects that would require a local referendum to raise the local share will not be eligible for this regular operating district funding. For districts seeking projects that would require a local referendum, debt service aid is available to provide state support for projects through NJDOE.
- To be considered for grant funding, the project’s scope of work must be:
- 100% eligible for state support.
- Included in one of the 13 priority project categories listed below.
Eligible Project Categories (listed in highest to lowest priority order):
- Essential building systems upgrades (repair or replacement of structural, mechanical/heating and cooling, electrical, and plumbing systems; includes required refinishing work).
- Building skin (repair or replacement of roof, windows, masonry, etc.).
- Building code issues.
- American Disabilities Act upgrades (includes site and building access, toilet room renovations).
- Hazardous material abatement (radon, lead, asbestos, etc.; includes required refinishing work).
- Security and communications systems (including essential systems).
- Technology infrastructure upgrades.
- Site drainage (to remediate an existing problem – not in conjunction with new construction).
- Elementary school playgrounds (includes the upgrade or replacement of existing playgrounds – but not new playgrounds – to meet life cycle, safety, and/or consumer product safety codes).
- Renovated or new early childhood classrooms (includes the renovation and/or new construction).
- Special population needs (for program expansion or educational adequacy).
- Existing site upgrades, excluding athletic fields and tracks (includes upgrades to sidewalks, paving, fencing and security lighting).
- Renovation and/or new construction of capacity-generating classrooms to address overcrowding or substandard conditions.
“From day one, my administration has made it a priority to support and improve our public school system – and helping our schools implement critical facility projects is an important component of those efforts,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “This funding demonstrates our commitment to strengthening our schools and cementing our legacy as a state that is dedicated to providing every student with a high-quality learning environment.”
Once a school facilities project has been determined by the NJDOE to be 100% eligible in scope, it will be categorized in one of the listed project areas for determination of sub-ranking priority. If the proposed scope of work is applicable to more than one project area, the project will be placed in the lower sub-ranking priority.
The NJDOE will review districts’ applications, and funds will be disbursed by the NJSDA once proposals have been approved. Following approval by the DOE, the project will be transmitted to the NJSDA to offer a grant to the district.
“Students and staff deserve to attend a school that offers a safe and secure learning environment,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “This funding is designed to address the highest priority projects, so we can work toward the goal of ensuring our school facilities are of the same high-quality as the instruction that is being provided within those school walls.”
Manuel M. Da Silva, CEO of the NJSDA, said, “This grant funding will allow hundreds of regular operating districts throughout the state to make critical school infrastructure upgrades, further supporting quality learning environments that will positively impact student learning.” He added, “Through our continued partnership with the DOE, SDA will support the advancement of school construction projects that improve and extend the lifecycle of the state’s school facilities.”
Sen. Paul Sarlo, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, who spearheaded the Senate effort to create the fund, said, “We created this fund with the specific intention of using federal and state resources to reduce and avoid state debt, and to make strategic investments in our future.”
A complete project application must be received by the Office of School Facilities Projects via email by 5 p.m. on May 1, 2023, to be considered for grant funding. It is recommended that districts submit their application prior to this deadline. Please refer to the OSFP Project Application webpage for details on the submission process, including the project application and transmittal requirements.
Refer to the joint advisory from the NJDOE and NJSDA for more details.