Eight area school districts will get more than $83 million in low or no-interest federal bonds for dozens of construction and renovation projects, saving taxpayers tens of millions dollars, Gov. Rendell announced Thursday.
The borrowed money must be used for projects that reduce water or energy consumption, upgrade early childhood education facilities, or give more students access to science, technology, or engineering labs.
Statewide, 46 districts have been selected to take part in sharing Pennsylvania's $602 million allocation of Qualified School Construction Bonds under the 2009 federal stimulus program.
The state estimates that districts could reap savings of up to $513 million in interest payments they would not have to finance because of the bonds.
The largest area bond grant - $28.3 million - will go to Chester County's Downingtown Area School District. Business manager Richard Fazio said the money would go to three projects: the construction of a third middle school; a new science, technology, engineering, and math center; and districtwide upgrades on electrical systems.
Delaware County's William Penn district will use its $15 million in bonds to renovate an elementary school, officials said this year.
The Southeast Delco district, also in Delaware County, said it would use its $15.75 million in bond share to pay for part of the renovation costs at Academy Park High School.
The Norristown area district will use its $15.6 million in bonds to replace the high school heating and air-conditioning system and to replace a roof and windows at a middle school, officials said.
Great Valley, in Chester County, planned to use some of its $1 million allocation to install solar panels at the middle school.
Other districts getting bond allocations are Upper Darby, $5.1 million; Montgomery County's Lower Moreland, $1 million; and Radnor district, $1.5 million.
The state will underwrite a bond issue of $602 million through its Public School Building Authority, then split the proceeds among the 46 districts, Rendell said, with each paying a proportional share of the cost. That will save them $35 million over the expense they would have incurred if each had issued their own bonds, he said, adding that this is the first time the state has done this.
The governor stressed that many of the projects would not have been affordable without federal stimulus dollars. And "even if they did happen, Pennsylvania property taxpayers would have borne the burden of $513 million" more in financing costs, he said. "That's pretty significant."
The Philadelphia School District will get a separate allocation of about $147 million under the stimulus bill program. District officials said Thursday that they had not decided how much of the allocation they would use, or what projects it would fund.