Letter | Planning process for school bonds is flawed
February 14, 2012 · 9:21 AM
I am concerned about the planning process that is bringing a $196M bond to a vote in April. This process is broken. Please consider:
1. Immediately after the school remodel in 1995, portables were installed because the planning process underestimated the number of students.
2. 17 years later the board is attempting to address the problem by demolishing four schools and building new. This will take eight years to complete. A total of 25 years of overcrowding. It appears the board is attempting to solve a problem other than overcrowding; it is just not clear what problem they are solving.
3. The board claims that as many as 35 alternatives to rebuilding were considered over the past six years; however, the only reason offered, that no acceptable alternatives were investigated, is that they would not work. When confronted with a viable researched option that would solve the problem in three years, they offer no data, no evaluation criteria, and no reason why the alternative was, and has been dismissed.
4. The requested $196M figure comes from estimates provided by industry professionals without any plans, drawings, schematics from which to provide a detailed estimate. This may be adequate to place a request on the ballot and sell bonds, but the actual cost will likely be much higher. There appears to be no clear plan if there is a shortfall.
I understand the board is made up of volunteers who freely give up their time and energy for the good of the community. In some ways it is not their fault that they find themselves in this position. The demands of properly planning a capital improvement and replacement program is a specialty. If we were to vote this bond down, then the board could hire a professional to conduct a proper process. We could solve the overcrowding problem more quickly, possibly not go through eight years of construction, save some money and have better schools.
On the other hand, if you vote for this bond, then you are approving a planning process that does not consider alternatives or use objective criteria. You may also expect that the construction costs will be higher than estimated and you will receive less school for your money than you expect.