NJ manages school capital online

New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation

New Jersey will deploy a statewide Web-based application that will help state and local education and school officials create and manage long-range capital plans for buildings and other facilities.

Boston-based VFA signed an agreement with the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation (SCC) to host the Web-based application integrated with a customized document management and workflow system. The new system will replace a very labor intensive, paper driven process, said Melanie Ziegler, VFA's vice president for software development.

In the current system, officials from the state's more than 600 school districts -- which collectively manage about 75 million square feet of property -- access data from multiple systems and piece together their five-year facility/capital plans.

"You couldn't see by looking at one computer screen all the aspects of the plan plus the execution of the plan," said Tim Dunn, VFA's general manager of software services. "What we're providing is really just one user interface to allow them to look all the data at once."

The new system is expected to help state officials better distribute funds equitably on need, company officials said. In 2000, the state passed a law providing $8.6 billion in public school construction over the decade. Overall, about $12 billion is expected to be spent with the additional money raised through local district voter approval. The SCC was formed by former Gov. James McGreevey to help manage the school construction program effectively.

VFA will integrate its flagship software product called VFA.facility, a capital asset planning and management software, with content management software created by Documentum, an EMC division. The system would allow authorized users -- about 1,400 in New Jersey -- to get a high level view of information, but they could also drill down to get details.

Ziegler said the new system will enable school district officials to capture and represent their inventory, assets, schools, current conditions and requirements in one place. That data will be integrated with both current and projected school enrollments.

"They can look at the capacities, where students are going to go and from that then this system allows them to develop a proposed inventory," she said. "So what new school buildings might I need to construct? Or what constructions or additional wings or facilities I might want to add? And our system will allow them to do all sorts of what-if analyses so they can experiment with different scenarios to get the right mix."

This information allows them to put together their Long Range Facilities Plan with a large amount of supporting documentation, which is also stored in the system. Ziegler said the documentation is required as the plans go through the automated workflow approval process.

The state plans to have the system in place this spring, before the October deadline for submitting the long-range plans. Company officials said they could not release project costs.

VFA has deployed similar education-based systems in Louisiana and Maine. Ziegler said her company is seeing growth in usage of facilities planning software across the public and private sectors. That's because as budgets get tighter, organizations want to ensure that the small amount of capital reinvestment dollars available is spent in the right direction.

In the federal market, VFA has deployed its products in the General Services Administration and the U.S. Army Health Facilities Planning Agency.

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