TRENTON – A report by the state auditor found that “educational need may not have been sufficiently considered” in school building projects by the Schools Development Authority, and it is expected to run out of funds to complete all the building projects it was planning to do.
The report added that the SDA is focusing too heavily on standardization, the concept of building architectually similar types of schools in various districts.
“By advancing lower priority projects because they support standardization, there is the potential for more educationally critical projects not being copleted with the current funding,” the audit stated.
Among other things, the office, led by Matthew Boxer, found that the 61 projects SDA wants to see go forward are expected to exceed the money it currently has available by $350 million.
The audit points out that the criteria SDA used to select 10 projects to move forward with this year were reasonable and in accordance with the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act.
However, the audit also stated that the total cost for the 80 projects on the Department of Education prioritization list is estimated to be $2 billion more than available funding.
The cost of 61 projects that met the SDA minimum criteria for advancement is expected to exceed available funding by $350 million.
In his reply to the audit findings, Marc Larkins, CEO of the SDA, said that “SDA will continue to assess the needs of the SDA districts and determine the most cost-effective and efficient manner in which to address those needs.”
Larkins’ letter defended the use of design standardization as one way to address the largest number of priority projects while ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.