What is a Capital Improvement Project?
Schools, like your home, require updating as they age. When there is a repair needed or a renovation or addition desired, the owner must spend money to perform the necessary work. Deferring critical improvements can lead to larger expenses down the road and increases the risk of an expensive emergency project. Ideally, the money spent for a home improvement or repair project comes from savings accumulated over time. Investments in school buildings and grounds can work the same.
Importance of Capital Projects
It can be difficult to justify to taxpayers why investing funds on facility improvements is important in times when a district is looking at managing the annual budget in other ways. However, capital projects have several positive impacts within a district.
On a practical level, NYSED encourages districts to maintain their facilities by offering Building Aid that is available separately from other forms of operating aid. NYSED recognizes that a building which has been maintained over time is less costly to operate than a building that has gone many years between building projects. That is why building aid is not transferrable between a capital project budget line and any other budget lines.
Most importantly, capital projects provide safe and healthy learning environments for children. A building with a new roof and mechanical ventilation units is a healthier building for students, faculty, and administrators. New finishes and improved lighting provide a brighter learning environment and have been proven to improve student performance. Classroom renovations that promote 21st century learning styles encourage students to collaborate and engage in hands-on learning. Flexible learning spaces and breakout rooms go beyond the typical classroom setting to facilitate individual study, one-on-one interactions, or small group learning. Finally, updated, safe, clean, and secure facilities instill pride within the school community and encourage the public to share in that pride.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) encourages school districts to undertake routine capital improvements and recognizes several ways for districts to make capital investments in their facilities. Each method has its own set of pros and cons that must be evaluated by District stakeholders to determine which best suits their needs.