McEntire legislation to assist small schools with capital finances unanimously passes House

Legislation that could provide assistance to small school districts in need of capital funding passed the state House of Representatives unanimously on Wednesday.

House Bill 1044, sponsored by 19th District Rep. Joel McEntire, says the legislation was an idea that generated from taking tours of the older, smaller schools in his district in poor condition and needing repair.

“Unfortunately, in Washington state, students have different learning environments. In touring the small schools, I could see why it would be difficult to learn when your surroundings are run-down and in need of repair,” said McEntire, R-Cathlamet. “Capital funding is part of our primary obligation to fund education. With the passage of this bill, we are also hopeful it would incentivize school districts to pass their bond measures.”

The bill would provide funding for small school districts through a grant process based on need. School districts would receive a score based on certain criteria. Grant dollars would then go to the school district whose score reflects the most need. Projects eligible for grant funding must correct critical physical deficiencies or essential safety concerns. That includes modernizing, repairing, reconfiguring, or replacing existing buildings and construction of new buildings.

“I am pleased to see the bill pass with unanimous support. This is a bipartisan effort to improve our small schools across the state that have structural deficiencies or safety concerns with their infrastructure,” said McEntire. “Our goal is to ensure that regardless of where students go to school, they have a quality learning environment.”

The bill would:

  • create a supplementary capital grant program for school districts with enrollments of 1,000 students or fewer for comprehensive instructional facility modernization or replacement;
  • require that grants be coordinated with the School Construction Assistance Program to the extent that a district has program eligibility;
  • require school districts awarded a grant to provide a district share equal to 50% of a district's remaining debt capacity for capital purposes;
  • cap at an estimated property tax rate increment of $1.75 per thousand of assessed district value, under various assumptions; and
  • establish various project eligibility criteria, grant prioritization, and administrative processes.

House Bill 1044 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications