Capital spending for local school districts
Authors: Linda Wesson and Cassie Stinson
Spending for public school capital projects by both local school districts and their county and city governments totaled an estimated $2 billion in fiscal year 2019-20, including spending for land, building construction and renovation, and related facilities like parking lots and athletic fields, as well as equipment like desks, chairs, playground equipment, and buses.
The bulk of capital spending on K-12 school facilities, and any related debt payments on loans, is paid from local revenues, including revenues from bonds and notes issued by local governments, adequate facilities taxes, and dedicated property taxes. The state supports capital spending for schools primarily through the state’s share of Basic Education Program (BEP) funding for several components related to capital needs, which totaled $503 million in fiscal year 2019-20.
The report reviews the amount and type of capital spending by local school districts and their local government funding bodies, as well as the methods used to pay for that spending. It summarizes the main factors that can increase capital spending for schools, including student enrollment growth, classroom size limit, the age and quality of school buildings, and the cost of building materials and labor. An interactive map that combines student enrollment changes, the condition of schools, and major capital needs of districts can be found here.
The report’s focus on spending and revenue data from 2019-20 captures more typical spending patterns that occurred mainly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the large injections of federal emergency relief funds known as ESSER.