New Instructional Facility Allotment (NIFA) Online Application for Funding

Word version

ACTION REQUESTED

 Date: June 1, 2015

 Subject: New Instructional Facility Allotment (NIFA); Online Application for Funding

 TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:

This letter is to inform you about the New Instructional Facility Allotment (NIFA), available to public school districts and charter schools. It describes the allotment, explains the eligibility criteria and application process, and spells out the NIFA payments process.

The Texas Education Code (TEC), §42.158, authorizes the NIFA program. The legislature did not provide funding under this allotment for the 2011–2012 through 2014–2015 school years. However, funding has been made available for the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years, contingent on final enactment of House Bill 1, 84th Legislative Session. In order to access funding under the NIFA program, your district must submit an online application (Attachment I) shows the complete statutory reference for the NIFA, and Attachment II shows the commissioner’s rules for the NIFA). The following list addresses some important facts and common misconceptions about the NIFA program:

  • The NIFA and the IFA (Instructional Facilities Allotment) are not the same, but are two different programs with different eligibility requirements, application processes, and application deadlines.
  • The NIFA is essentially a reimbursement program for start-up costs of new campuses. Initial (first-year) applications must be submitted during the summer before the expected opening of the new building. Follow-up (second-year) applications must be submitted during the summer after the first year of occupation. Because no funding was appropriated for NIFA in the 2014–2015 school year, no districts will be in follow-up or second-year status in the 2015–2016 school year. Only campuses that are in the first year of operation in the 2015–2016 school year will be eligible for funding this year.
  • NIFA funding is based on the average daily attendance (ADA) earned on a new campus. Since many new campuses open during the middle of a year, funding for these campuses is prorated for the first year.
  • The NIFA is part of the cost of Tier I of the Foundation School Program (FSP), but it is not counted in the calculation of weighted average daily attendance (WADA) for Tier II of the FSP. Districts not eligible for Tier I funding are eligible for the NIFA.

Eligibility Criteria: The NIFA is available to all public school districts and charter schools that construct new buildings. Districts that must take action under the TEC, Chapter 41, to reduce wealth per student to the equalized wealth level and school districts that do not otherwise qualify for state aid are eligible to receive the NIFA. The following list provides the definitions and eligibility criteria for the NIFA:

To be eligible for the NIFA: 

  • The facility for which funds are requested must be a newly constructed instructional site (campus) used for teaching the curriculum required by the TEC, Chapter 28.
  • The new facility must have its own campus ID number as designated by the Texas Education Agency.
  • The new facility must have its own principal or be eligible to receive an accountability rating through standard analysis as described in the most current Accountability Manual.
  • The new facility must have its own assigned instructional staff and instructional program distinct from those for other facilities.
  • The new facility must have its own record of expenditures that is not a sub-set of another school budget and its own attendance data that can be reported for those students assigned to its campus.
  • The new facility must be physically separate from other existing school structures. However, a covered walkway may connect the new facility to another building.

Funds Available:

  • To qualify for initial (first-year) funding, the campus must be occupied for the first time in the 2015–2016 school year.

Prohibitions and Restrictions:

  • The facility for which funds are requested cannot be for a program for students enrolled in another public school (summer school, evening school, etc.).
  • The facility cannot be a renovated building. The building and the slab must be new from the ground up. The only exception would be for a campus with newly constructed instructional facilities and renovated or retained non-instructional structures, such as a cafeteria or library.
  • The facility cannot be an expansion of existing facilities.
  • The facility cannot be a portable or temporary structure.

Allotment Amount: For an initial (first-year) application, a school district is entitled to an allotment of $250 per ADA earned by students in attendance on an eligible new campus. Funding is prorated for a facility that opens after the beginning of the school year.

Allotment Proration: Funding for the NIFA is limited by appropriation. If the total amount of allotments to which all districts are entitled for a school year exceeds the amount appropriated, the commissioner will reduce each district’s allotment so that the total amount to be distributed equals the total amount available. Reductions to allotments are made by applying the same number of cents of tax rate to each district’s taxable value of property. For each district, the taxable value of property is the property value certified by the Texas comptroller for the preceding school year as determined under the Government Code, Subchapter M, Chapter 403, or, if applicable, a reduced property value that reflects either a rapid decline pursuant to the TEC, §42.2521, or a grade-level adjustment pursuant to the TEC, §42.106.

Application Process: The NIFA application is available online. Applications must be entered, saved, and sent through the online system. Applications must be sent electronically by July 15, 2015. Neither late applications nor paper applications will be accepted.  Pictures, site plans, floor plans, demolition plans (if applicable), and legal documentation must be uploaded into the FSP System by July 15, 2015.

Online FSP Payment System: The online FSP Payment System requires a Texas Education Agency Secure Environment (TEASE) user ID and assigned password. The FSP system will not process a NIFA application until the applicant agrees that certain required conditions apply to the newly constructed site. Moreover, the system assumes that the applicant is the superintendent or the superintendent’s authorized designee, and is fully familiar with the pertinent facts. Please be cautious about whom is granted online access, since the information provided in the NIFA application is subject to audit.

On FSP Payment System access, the user should:

1.     Select the NIFA link from the Programs options.

2.     Change the year to 2015–2016.

3.     Review the announcements.

4.     Select the NIFA Application link from the menu on the left.

5.     Click the button for the appropriate NIFA application type.

6.     Complete the application, save it, and send it.

Selecting the appropriate application type:

  • An initial application applies to a facility not occupied before the 2015–2016 school year and that has never before received NIFA funds. An initial application includes a verification of eligibility, a brief description and photograph of the newly built instructional facility, and a copy of a legal document that clearly describes the nature and dates of construction. The documentation may be a copy of a contract, certification of project compliance, or certification of substantial completion.

 Preliminary Payments: A separate NIFA payment will not be sent. Rather, preliminary payments will be incorporated into allocations for the FSP according to a district’s payment class. NIFA payments are reflected on the Summary of Finances reports. For a district that is not subject to the requirements of the TEC, Chapter 41, and does not receive payments from the Foundation School Fund, NIFA distributions will correspond to the schedule for payment class 3. For a district that is required to reduce wealth pursuant to the TEC, Chapter 41, any NIFA funds for which the district is eligible are applied as credits to the amounts owed to equalize wealth.

For all districts receiving the NIFA, a settle‑up amount is determined by the commissioner when final counts of ADA as reported through the PEIMS are available for each campus. The amount of funds to be distributed for the NIFA to a school district is in addition to any other state aid entitlements.

 Questions: If you have any questions related to the NIFA or the NIFA application, please contact Cassie Huggins by phone at (512) 463-9232 or by email at Cassie.Huggins@tea.texas.gov.

Sincerely,

Amanda Brownson, Director