The Massachusetts School Building Authority issued a statement today reminding districts that grant amounts and reimbursement rates that districts can receive for school construction projects are set at the time of project approval, and the authority cannot later increase those amounts.

As a matter of policy, the statement said, the MSBA does not reimburse for change orders due to schedule delays or accelerated costs, and the authority has caps on change orders that are set at the time of project approval.

“We have done our programmatic planning and based our capital pipeline invitations according to this process and based on the annual funding cap limitation that we have,” the authority stated. “To change our processes or make exceptions would have a profound impact on our future program and impact the ability to continue with other projects in our pipeline.”

Several districts with projects in the MSBA’s capital pipeline have contacted the authority with concerns related to the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on projects. Each district and each project is facing its own challenges, according to the MSBA, depending on what phase the project is in, as well as each district’s decisions on implementing COVID-19 guidelines. Some of the major concerns conveyed to the authority regard MSBA deadlines, project schedules and potential budget increases.

The MSBA concurs with recommendations from the National Council on School Facilities to keep track of any additional facilities expenses related to the current health crisis, though it is unclear at this time whether any of these expenses may be eligible to be reimbursed by funding to be allocated to the Commonwealth through the federal CARES Act.

The MSBA recommends that districts work with their project teams and local counsel to review their project contracts and documents to identify any avenues of budgetary relief. Additionally, the MSBA suggests that districts work with their local governmental leaders and local counsel to determine whether there may be some type of assistance through the CARES Act.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts School Building Authority office has been closed since March 17, until further notice.

The authority reports, however, that it remains committed to its partnership with districts, and continues to accept reimbursement requests, contracts and other documents electronically in order to continue to support project approvals and reimburse districts during the pandemic.

The MSBA is taking multiple steps to assist districts. It is holding board, subcommittee, panel and other meetings remotely so the MSBA process can continue to move forward. And the authority is working with districts to provide flexibility with extensions and MSBA deliverables.