Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Public-private partnerships for schools?

With the economy in a bad slump, new construction projects are at a standstill in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools - and probably elsewhere in the state. So we were interested to read about a statewide committee's recommendations today on funding school and other public capital projects.

Here's part of a news release:

At a press conference, the Institute for Emerging Issues Business Committee on Infrastructure (BCI) released its final recommendations, urging lawmakers to make public-private partnerships (PPPs) an available option for state and local governments to meet current and future infrastructure demands.

“For the right infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships can be an effective way to distribute the risks and rewards of not just building or financing public capital projects, but operating and managing them as well,” said Committee co-chair Bill Klein, Bovis Lend Lease Director of Capital Projects for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. “At a time when public resources are particularly scarce, we need to explore innovative finance and delivery methods like these.”

The BCI agreed that PPPs can be an important tool in the financing toolbox for state and local governments and proposed that North Carolina further explore how best to support such partnerships. This would ensure greater accountability and transparency, and provide a predictable path for project development. Coupled with well-informed partners, PPPs have the potential to more efficiently develop infrastructure and achieve better value for the taxpayer.
Virginia is one of several states to pass a public-private partnership statute, and as a result the state has over 100 projects either completed or under review. Similar legislation in North Carolina could make public-private partnerships an option in developing and maintaining the state’s schools, water and sewer systems, roads, and other critical infrastructure.

In 2006, the NC General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the use of PPPs to alleviate the growing need for more public schools. However, no successful school construction projects have been completed under this law to date. The BCI believes that creating a sound regulatory framework for these types of partnerships would better serve the state and its localities in closing its infrastructure gaps.

N.C. Sen. Clark Jenkins announced his intentions to propose a Legislative Study Commission on public-private partnerships during the 2010 legislative session. N.C. Rep. Deborah Ross was also on hand to encourage the creation of a PPP study commission, particularly in exploring how PPPs can enhance our transit options and transit-orientated development.

The Business Committee on Infrastructure was comprised of a very diverse group of high-level business leaders from across the state representing primarily the development, legal and financial sectors. The BCI’s final recommendations incorporate the views and expertise of national experts as well as state and local public sector leaders who were active participants throughout the BCI process.

For more information on the recommendations, go to: http://www.ncsu.edu/iei/