- Associated Press - Sunday, July 30, 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Sixteen schools across a city in Alabama will receive money through government bonds to renovate and provide equipment for classrooms.

The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education approved the designation of 16 schools in the school system as sites for the qualified zone academy bond funding, a zero-interest federal program, the Tuscaloosa News reported . The Alabama State Department of Education allocated $2 million as part of the funding, which will be split $125,000 per school.

Statewide, QZAB funding covers $14 million.

Funding is awarded to schools with at least 35 percent of students who participate in the free and reduced lunch plan, according to Ed LaVigne, chief school financial officer for Tuscaloosa City Schools.

QZAB loans are locally-issued debt with local banks that will compete for the best loan terms for the school.

LaVigne said the banks have incentive to take part in QZAB because they receive tax breaks from the IRS for their participation.

The school system will have to pay back the low-interest bond over several years, but they can be used to renovate buildings and provide different kinds of classroom equipment, such as LED lighting and technological upgrades.

“It adds up quickly,” LaVigne said. “It will not be hard to spend $125,000 per school.”

The schools that will receive funding include the Alberta School of Performing Arts, Arcadia Elementary School, Central Elementary School, Oakdale Elementary School, Skyland Elementary School, Southview Elementary School, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School, University Place Elementary School, Woodland Forrest Elementary School, Eastwood Middle School, University Place Middle School, Westlawn Middle School, Paul W. Bryant High School, Central High School and Northridge High School.

“It’s still money that has to be paid back, but I think it’s a great use of those funds, especially for the technological needs of those schools,” Wilson said. “I think any amount of money we can get to help our schools is great.”

Starting in August, the school system will collect bids from local banks and possibly make a selection by September.

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