Arizona School Facilities Board Prioritizes Funding Repairs Over Inspections
The Arizona School Facilities Board distributes tens of millions of dollars to schools each year for repairs and new buildings.
A recent Arizona Auditor General report suggested how the agency could improve and noted it isn’t inspecting schools every five years as required.
Executive Director Paul Bakalis said the board has focused its staff on helping districts get money for projects through the Building Renewal Grant (BRG).
“When they’re out there, they’re looking, visiting with and talking about where there BRG opportunities ... and basically doing those inspections when they’re there rather than taking them away from urgent situations,” Bakalis said.
This year, the Legislature allocated nearly $80 million to the building renewal grant program. These allocations have increased in the past several years compared to the years after the Great Recession when building renewal grant funding dropped to below $3 million.
The Board reported requests for these grants from districts have increased almost 400% in recent years. Building renewal grants can be used to help schools repair specific deficiencies on their campus.
The Arizona Republic reported in June, the School Facilities Board had inspected one school for deficiencies in three years.
The Board has six liaisons to handle requests from 214 public school districts in the state.
Bakalis said even though formal inspections aren’t happening regularly, his staff visit schools almost every work day, often to help them apply for grant funding for repairs.
“We’re about getting that money in the hands of the districts,” Bakalis said.
The Auditor General’s report recommended the board develop policies to help ensure building repairs and inspections are made.