- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Elementary, middle and high schools in South Carolina could get borrowed money from the state to build and repair buildings and wire the school for technology under a bill passed Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The proposal would have the state study how much debt it has and issue up to $200 million in bonds each year.

School districts would submit plans for how they would spend the money to the state Education Department, which would create a priority list and send that to the Legislature for a vote.

The bill allows the agency flexibility to give money to poorer districts or offer loans to districts with better tax bases, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian White said.

The bill passed unanimously. It now advances to the full House.

Gov. Nikki Haley suggested a similar plan in her State of the State address in January.

Districts could not spend the money on sports stadiums or administration buildings, but the money would be eligible for new buildings and repairs that have been put off for years.

To make sure the money is spent properly, districts must keep maintenance records on buildings, which sometimes aren’t well kept in the state’s poorer districts.

The money also could force consolidation. A district could have to build one technology center to be shared by several schools, White said.

“There would be some consolidations of facilities as needed for that district,” said White, R-Anderson. “I think this is a great tool not only to build facilities, but to get financial houses in order as well.”

If the bill becomes law, the deadline for districts to send their plans to the Education Department would be Oct. 1, 2017.

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