Use of Vacant Schools Could Provide Savings to Federal Construction Programs

HRD-81-28: Published: Jan 19, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 1981.

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Use of public school facilities, which are closing due to declining enrollments, may be a source of savings for new construction projects financed by the Federal Government. At the start of the 1978-79 school year, there were nearly 2500 vacant schools in 19 States. Well over one-third of them were in good condition and located in areas that made them suitable for continued use. GAO interviewed officials of four Federal programs that provide grant-in-aid assistance for construction to obtain information on the potential that vacated schools hold for other purposes.

State and local authorities are not required to consider using vacant schools in lieu of new construction when requesting grant funds. However, projects that include converting vacant schools may be funded under their programs as long as the projects meet the various Federal requirements. Because there may be opportunities for substantial cost savings by using more vacant schools, GAO believes that an evaluation of the feasibility of using such schools should be required before construction funds are awarded to grantees. In addition, since the opportunity spans many Federal programs, there should be a Federal policy requiring Federal agencies with grant construction programs to consider using vacant schools in lieu of new construction.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although OMB agrees that savings could be realized by encouraging the use of vacant schools when assessing the need for Federal aid for construction, it does not believe it would be useful to mandate a uniform requirement that existing vacant schools be considered in lieu of Federal construction.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should require Federal agencies that provide grants for construction projects to make sure that adequate consideration is given to the use of vacant schools before funds for constructing new facilities are authorized.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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