Early in 2015 the school board asked a company called “K-12 Consulting” to produce a report that had the title “Permanent Improvement Cost Assessment”. After a special morning board meeting, the board used the report as the primary document to warn the community about high facility costs, and the need for new buildings. The board notes recorded them saying about new construction “It’s our turn now”, and how they had a “MORAL IMPERATIVE” to build, based on the facilities report.
I read carefully through that report. Not only does it not support the conclusion of the school board, It explicitly says it is not to be used to estimate costs for replacement or renovation of current school buildings. By quoting (incorrectly) some of the costs the school will face in the next 10 years, without specifying the second biggest cost category (Sports facilities) , in my opinion the board has fraudulently used this report to deceive the community.
The K-12 Consulting Report
K-12 Consulting is a Dublin based company that works with schools to produce reports and training. I don’t want to imply that the company did anything wrong, they appear to have used the data they were given, and costs estimates projections from industry groups, to make accurate guesses about the future cost of facilities at the school. However, the way the school board gave the scope requirements for this report failed to address the most important questions we need to know to make informed opinions about the future of renovation or new construction at the schools.
First, this report was limited to the years 2016 to 2024. This ignores the past costs that the school has paid in real dollars for facility maintenance. By looking at past costs, and projections of future costs (adjusted for inflation), the board could have substantiated their claims that we will be paying more in the future because of the age of the infrastructure. It’s an incomplete picture that could have been resolved with data existing in the school finance department.
Second, the report very clearly says that the data presented is only for current facilities costs. The second paragraph of the report says:
“This assessment was not intended to provide costs to renovate or replace the existing facilities. The goal was to capture the costs of yearly maintenance, equipment replacement, and capital repairs that include an allocation to start updating the student learning environment over the next ten year period. This process would be an incremental effort to move through a block of classrooms annually while performing yearly maintenance on the infrastructure of the district.”
I question this statement that the report is not about costs to renovate, while at the same time it contains costs for “updating the student environment”. Isn’t that renovation?
Because the report doesn’t contain anything about costs for new construction, it was inappropriate to use of it in the May 2015 special meeting as the prime document that lead them to the statement “80-‐90 years ago the people of Grandview invested in school buildings and infrastructure; it’s our turn now.” That statement was unsupported by any projection of the costs of new buildings, as opposed to renovation of current facilities.
Digging into the Facilities report
I highly suggest you download and read the Grandview Final Facilities report Here is a quick overview of the content.
The spreadsheet with the title “Buildings – mechanical equipment and repairs” is the most important one in this assessment. If the school board is correct in their claims that the school buildings are deteriorating because of age, this spreadsheet should show increasing annual costs over the next ten years. But look at the bottom line totals – they show costs that average around $350K, with small increases and decreases over time. There is nothing here to support a claim that the buildings are deteriorating and costing increasing amounts.
This spreadsheet shows the cost of snow removal equipment, vans, and maintenance supplies – fixed costs. It has nothing to do with building costs. Why does this belong in a report that was used to support the board conclusion that new buildings are needed?
There are more spreadsheets that cover costs for flooring, roofing, asphalt and furniture. All are fixed costs that are expected, no surprises or spikes in the future.
The Athletics spreadsheet is the most important one to read for a full understanding the facilities costs at the school. Here you see the Recoating of the home stadium seating for $110K, the visitor bleacher replacement at $27K, fencing for $60K, the track surface replacement for $110K, and the big one, the artificial turf will need replacement in 2017 at $357K. I totaled up the costs for all athletic facility spending for the next ten years, it is over $700K. As a percentage of the total costs for the future at the school, these expensive athletics projects are the second highest cost center on the pie chart in the report.
You would think with these kind of costs in the near term, the school board would be mentioning that Athletics are a major cost factor. Yet I can’t find any mention of this in the published information from the board. The boosters website is devoid of mention of these costs, or any plans for fundraisers specific to the projects.
How did the board come to its conclusions?
After you download and read the Facilities report, download the school MINUTES 2015 05 13 The board is recorded reading the report, and suggests that there are other costs not included (why didn’t they include those costs in the scope?) The board then makes statements like “80-‐90 years ago the people of Grandview invested in school buildings and infrastructure; it’s our turn now.”, and “Feeling of MORAL IMPERATIVE to do something” (that capitalization is directly from the meeting notes). How does this report support the urgency to replace buildings?
If the board was honest, they would have said “We feel a MORAL IMPERATIVE to inform Grandview residents that the athletic departments facilities are very expensive to maintain, and the private donations are not expected to cover any more than a small percentage of costs.” Honesty from the Grandview school board is in short supply. Also, why was the board recorded giving reports on visits to other school systems – isn’t it way too early in the process to be doing visits? I get the feeling that the board was measuring the curtains for new offices they will include in plans for new construction.
The TVN article about the facilities report
The TVN did a story about the facilities report, given as a presentation by the facilities committee (made up of board members). This statement in the story stuck out:
“The audit was “a very reasonable, conservative” look at the district’s facility needs, Truett said. The cost of maintaining the buildings is projected to be between $800,000 and $1.2 million a year for at least the next five or six years, he said.”
First, no, the K-12 facilities report didn’t say $800K to $1.2 million. It said $750K to $1,070K for the most expensive years. Not much different, but why lie about the numbers that are printed right on the report?
Second, there is no support for the “between $800,000 and $1.2 million a year for at least the next five or six years”. The report said those extreme costs are limited to the next three years, after 2017 the totals drop down to an average well below $500K.
Finally, the reason for that high number of $1,070K is plainly printed in the report. The artificial turf will cost $357K, and it will be a budget buster for the school. The failure to include an explicit mention of the cost of the turf is deceptive, and it completely fails to inform the parents of our school system about the true reasons for high facilities costs.
As an aside – If you are wondering why the board has not set some money aside in preparation for the turf replacement, the answer is that they were still paying off the old loan for the installation as late as 2014.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Failure to honestly communicate important information is the fundamental mission of the present “Policy Governance” board. They need us to pass high levies for their new school buildings however, so expect to see lots more BS flowing from the board.