AUGUSTA – When the Auburn School Department last applied for state funding to build another Edward Little High, it came in low on the state’s 2005 priority list.

Of 66 school construction applications, only the top 20 received state funding. Edward Little came in at 44.

The next time the state will accept applications will be in 2009 or 2010, Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said Tuesday.

When Auburn reapplies for state funding, its project will again have to compete with all the other statewide requests, Auburn interim Superintendent Tom Morrill said.

Typically, school construction funding applications are accepted more often than every four or five years, Connerty-Marin said. He offered two reasons why no applications will be taken for two to three years.

One is school consolidation. As new school districts form, building needs could change. It’s wiser to wait and see what the needs are with new districts.

Another reason is the state’s existing debt.

“The debt limit is set by statute,” Connerty-Marin said. Annual payments to pay back the school construction loans come to $126 million, he added. New applications won’t be accepted until some of the old loans are paid off and the annual payments are lowered, he said.

The state used to take school building applications every two years, Connerty-Marin said. But with higher building costs, it’s taking longer to pay off loans. New schools cost between $10 million and $50 million, he said.

– Bonnie Washuk

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