BEFORE THE Department of COMMERCE
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
In the matter of the adoption of New Rule I pertaining to the administration of the Quality Schools Grant Program – Planning Grants, and New Rule II pertaining to the administration of the Quality Schools Grant Program – Emergency Grants
NOTICE OF ADOPTION
TO: All Concerned Persons
1. On October 29, 2009, the Department of Commerce published MAR Notice No. 8-2-77 pertaining to the public hearing on the proposed adoption of the above-stated rules at page 1837 of the 2009 Montana Administrative Register, Issue Number 20.
2. The department has adopted the above-stated rules as proposed: New Rule I (8.2.501), New Rule II (8.2.502).
3. The department has thoroughly considered the comments and testimony received, and has revised the guidelines for the Quality Schools Planning and Emergency Grants – incorporated by reference in New Rule I and New Rule II – as set forth below. A summary of the comments received and the department's responses are as follows:
COMMENT #1: Recommendation to add content to the final sentence of the final paragraph of Section II-A to also include "Educational Facility Planners" and also to include "provide a comprehensive facility plan" as an eligible planning grant expense. The request is to have the planning grant support educational facility planning.
RESPONSE #1: The language in this section includes the words "other consultants", which includes "Educational Facility Planners" without having to specify it in the guidelines. Since the objective of the Planning Grant is to support educational facility planning, the language "provide a comprehensive facility plan" has been added to section II-A of the guidelines.
COMMENT #2: Recommendation to add content to the first sentence of the first paragraph in Section II-D to include "comprehensive facility plan" as well as preliminary architectural report.
RESPONSE #2: Comprehensive facility planning encourages schools to be proactive in their efforts to maintain and improve their facilities through effective planning. This proposed language has been added to clarify the use of planning grant funds in section II-D of the guidelines.
COMMENT #3: Question in regard to the $25,000 grant limit for planning and whether it was per district or per each facility within a district. The commenter also requests to have this limit be on a sliding scale based on some factor such as number of students or square footage of facilities to allow larger schools to come in with larger, more all-inclusive comprehensive plans.
RESPONSE #3: The $25,000 grant limit for planning is per district not per facility, and section IV of the guidelines has been revised to clarify. The limit for planning grants was derived to provide the highest threshold possible and still allow for broad distribution of the planning grant funds across the state. No change was made to the $25,000 grant limit.
COMMENT #4: Comment was in regard to timing of awards for PROJECT GRANT and did not address any issues in regard to Planning or Emergency Grant rules.
RESPONSE #4: No response required. Comment will be considered before adoption of project rules.
COMMENT #5: Would schools be able to use planning grant funds to pay for planning expenses associated with performance contracting?
RESPONSE #5: Planning grant funds can be used under the proposed rules to pay for planning expenses associated with performance contracting. Schools would need to comply with all applicable procurement laws, including Section 90-4-1106, MCA, regarding energy performance contracts.
COMMENT #6: There does not seem to be any provisions to waive the bid requirements in state law. It is very difficult to do much of anything without bumping up against and going over the $50,000 amount.
RESPONSE #6: The $50,000 limit referred to by the commenter is set forth in Montana statute, Section 20-9-204(3), MCA. Montana law cannot be waived by administrative rules. Schools must comply with all applicable procurement laws when using Quality School Program Grant funds.
COMMENT #7: There were several comments about Section III – Ineligible Activities, specifically in regard to project-related costs prior to date of offer letter. Allowing some retroactive eligibility would allow schools already in the planning process to apply and get some funding to support proactive measure already taken.
RESPONSE #7: The department wants to recognize the proactive efforts of schools that are already in the process of planning projects and will change the eligibility deadline for eligible planning project costs from the initial proposal of "date of the award letter" to October 1, 2009, allowing reimbursement for eligible planning projects costs incurred from October 1, 2009, to the date of the award letter. This change will be reflected in Section II – Eligible Planning Projects; Section III – Ineligible Activities; and Section V – Application Submission.
COMMENT #8: If the intent of these grants is to put people to work, these grants then should take into account the unemployment rates of the applicant, the percentage of students in the school who are on free and reduced hot lunches, prior to awarding the grants. There should be more correlation between the needs, amount of grants awarded, and the necessity of work.
RESPONSE #8: The Quality Schools Grant Program is not a reinvestment or recovery program, and was not created primarily as a job creation program. Rather, the statutory purpose of the Quality Schools Grant Program is to enhance the quality of life and protect the health, safety, and welfare of Montana's public school students; ensure the successful delivery of an educational system that meets the accreditation standards provided for in Section 20-7-111, MCA; extend the life of Montana's existing public school facilities; promote energy conservation and reduction; integrate technology into Montana's education framework to support student educational needs for the 21st century; and promote fiscal responsibility by considering both long-term and short-term needs of the public school district, the local community, and the state. The Quality Schools Program Grant statute allows the department to consider the extent to which the planning project or the planned facility project addresses the educationally relevant factors established in 20-9-309, MCA, in making its final planning grant award decisions, including the needs of students who qualified for services under 29 U.S.C. 794. No changes were made to the planning and emergency grant guidelines.
COMMENT #9: Will the planning applications for planning grants be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis, or rather rated and compared to the other applications? Please specify the date that the applications must be provided to the department to be included as part of this review.
RESPONSE #9: Quality Schools planning grant applications will be accepted on an on-going first-come, first-serve basis beginning December 11, 2009, until the end of the 2011 biennium, or until all appropriated Quality Schools planning grant funds have been awarded, whichever comes first. All planning projects for which a Quality School planning grant has been awarded must be completed within twelve (12) months of the date of Award Letter issued to the applicant from the department. The department staff will review each application for completeness and sufficiency, and consider the overall quality of the application, including measurable project goals, tasks, and activities, a well developed work plan and budget, easily identifiable deliverables, and the extent to which the proposed project meets the statutory priorities and criteria, in making its final planning grant award decisions. The guidelines have been amended to reflect these timelines.
COMMENT #10: On the Planning Grant Application, the line marked "Total Amount of Grant being requested:" is this line for the total of the grant, or for the portion that is being requested based on the 4:1 match? Also on the following line, "Projected Cost:" is this the portion of the school's projected planning cost or the total cost of the planning project?
RESPONSE #10: The line, "Total Amount of Grant being requested," is referring to the total grant amount being requested from the Quality Schools Grant Program, not including any other matching funds. The line, "Projected Cost," is referring to the total, overall cost of the planning project. The Planning Grant application has been modified to clarify the grant amount, the matching funds amount, and the total project cost.
/s/ KELLY A. CASILLAS /s/ ANTHONY J. PREITE
KELLY A. CASILLAS ANTHONY J. PREITE
Rule Reviewer Director
Department of Commerce
Certified to the Secretary of State November 30, 2009.