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Camden gets $2.29M grant for new school

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Joe Ferrell speaks after being voted in at the new Superintendent of Camden County Schools, Friday, October 6, 2017.

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From staff reports

Monday, November 6, 2017

CAMDEN — Camden County has been awarded a $2.29 million state grant toward construction of a new high school — far short of the $15 million county officials had sought for the project.

Camden officials were notified Monday the county will receive the grant from the state’s new Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. The money will go toward the cost of building a new high school currently estimated to cost $33.3 million.

“I’m grateful that we did get partial funding and I’m also disappointed that we didn’t get funding for the full amount,” Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell said Monday. “But mostly I’m grateful that we did get at least some funding for the project.”

Ferrell said he understands that there is pressure on all funding sources right now. 

Stephanie Humphries, interim Camden County manager, said Monday the next step for the county is to hold a meeting of the Adequate Public Facilities group to discuss how to proceed now that officials know what grant money will be available to Camden. The group, formed in 2007, is comprised of members of the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. It was created to help the county plan for future school facilities.

Ferrell said the next steps for school officials are to select an architectural firm — the board has received proposals from three companies — and discuss funding with county officials.

Camden’s $2.29 million grant was one of four from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund totaling $30 million announced by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson on Monday. Besides Camden, Clay, Gates, and Jones counties were also approved for needs-based grants to pay for new school buildings.

Jones and Clay received the lion’s share of the $30 million in grant funding: $15 million for Jones and $10.2 million for Clay. Gates will receive $2.5 million.

Funding emphasis was given to projects that are far enough along in the planning process that construction could begin within 12 months, Johnson said in a statement released by his office. 

“Through these grants, we will begin to address the critical school infrastructure needs in less-populated parts of our state through projects that will begin construction within 12 months,” Johnson said. “Students in outdated — and in some cases, unsafe — buildings will benefit soon from these new facilities.”

Money for the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund — more than $100 million over the next two years — was provided by the General Assembly from state lottery revenues to assist lower-wealth counties with school building needs. For this year and next year, funding will be available only to Tier 1 counties. In later years, Tier 2 counties will also be eligible.

Grants are capped at $15 million per project in Tier 1 counties. The law requires a local match of $1 for every $3 in grant funds.

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