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November 1, 2013

State school building projects on backlog

BOSTON — The Massachusetts School Building Authority has spent $10 billion and nearly retired the financial obligations of its predecessor since its inception in 2004, but there is no dearth of projects still awaiting funding, state Treasurer Steven Grossman says.

“We’ve cleared the bulk of the more than $10 billion of old waiting list projects. These were projects that have been in the pipeline for a long time,” Grossman told reporters after a celebration of the school construction funding.

“But we had 201 statements of interest submitted this year from school districts all over the Commonwealth,” he added. “We’ll only be able to fund a fraction of those because we have a statutory limit of about a half a billion dollars a year that we can put into new projects, so there’s a huge, pent-up demand.”

In a ceremony in the State House, Rep. John Rogers, D-Norwood, was singled out for his work in crafting legislation that reorganized what many saw as runaway spending on a school building assistance program within the Department of Education. Rep. Frank Hynes, a Marshfield Democrat, said at the time the state was spending $440 million per year on the financing.

The reform was supported by former Treasurer Tim Cahill, who left office after losing an independent gubernatorial bid to Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, and was signed into law by former Gov. Mitt Romney.

According to the MSBA, the program has saved cities and towns $2.9 billion in avoided local interest costs, and has nearly completed the $5.1 billion in debt payments and $5.4 billion in “waitlist projects” approved by the Department of Education under the old system.

“Of the $10.5 (billion), we have retired $9.3 billion of that debt. It was very overwhelming that we were able to get that done, and of the projects that we inherited, 98 percent of those are done and audited,” said MSBA Executive Director Jack McCarthy.

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