Today’s article comes to us from a local Battle Ground School District resident – Ben. The full document he refers to can be downloaded and read in this link: BGSD FIT vs Bond Data and Questions Feb_Mar_2018_Ben
The Battle Ground SD has promoted the bond as following the Facilities Improvement Team (FIT) study and recommendations. After reading the FIT report and the bond information I had more questions than answers. So I began to research the topic, and what I found gave me a specific set of questions to ask the BGSD board and superintendent. So, I put a letter with my questions together and submitted them to the district administration.
Denny Waters was selected by the board to reply to my questions, and I want to thank him for taking the time to do so. After reviewing his answers I still had some questions and asked some follow on questions. The document attached to this Facebook post contains the questions and responses as well as some of my thoughts after reading everything when done.
Here are the main questions I was trying to get answers to, the answers given, and why I still cannot support this bond. I encourage you to read everything yourself and come to your own conclusions.
Question one: Why is this bond asking for $224 million when the FIT recommended $80 million per phase over 3 phases and 18 years?
Question two: Was the district following the FIT recommendations as they said they were?
Question three: Was BGSD going to use this money wisely, or was there waste that could be cut out, ie: could the same projects be completed for less money?
The costs listed in the FIT bear no relation to the costs being used in the bond. Current anticipated cost per sq/ft is $409 and that will rise over time. They argue that it’s better to spend the money now before costs go up. I’m wondering why its $409, when the FIT team and the State Office of Public Instruction show costs in Clark county to be a maximum of $350 sq/ft. There apparently are also “soft” costs on top of the $409 which will add ~35% so that $409 now becomes $552 per square foot a full $200 more per sq/ft than what the state and FIT team calculated. (This leads to reduced funding from the State in matching funds, as the state will only fund at their numbers)
The FIT calculated $32 million to rebuild Glenwood and Laurin, the Bond is asking for $69 million, with only $16 million being paid by the State. The two reasons for this increase according to the district are an increase in the square foot print of the buildings, from 100,000 to 125,000, and construction cost increases over the last 2 years. According to the FIT, an increase of 25,000 should have increased costs $8 million, but the total increase is $37 million. So the district is expecting us to believe the cost of construction has increased by $29 MILLION dollars in TWO years. And that is just for that building project.
It is the same at Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle. Once again the district increased the size from 100,000 to 125,000, leading to what should have been an $8 million increase, but the districts numbers show a $40 million increase. This is for the above stated reasons, plus one more. They do not plan on building these buildings for 2-3 years after the bond passes. So they added an extra 5% for inflation and cost increases.
From Mr. Water’s answers I can only conclude the FIT team, who took two years to complete their recommendations, didn’t included something as simple as costs for architectural and engineering fees, permits, construction management, or demolition, which they call “soft costs” into their calculations. Or the district is over estimating the actual cost of these items. At 35% ($17.9 million for Laurin and Glenwood) it seems like an over estimation to me.
After reading the first set of answers and then the clarifying answers from the district I’m wondering how much planning has really been done. There are so many inconsistencies that it seems they are largely guessing at what the actual costs will be. They are including a 5% cost increase for the PV schools which will not be built for 2-3 years. But they are asking us to believe costs have increased by 280% ($80 to $224 million) from two years ago when the FIT recommendations were done and the $80 million bond was put to voters. Those seem to contradict each other.
One question that came up from the answers given is the timeline for repairs. The district says it will take 24-30 months from permitting to opening a new school. The replacement of Laurin and Glenwood would be first, with the possibility of some small projects being completed concurrently. The district however does not have a specific timeline after that, beyond the estimate that everything should be completed in 6 or 7 years. Again the lack of a specific detailed plan when asking for $224 million dollars is staggering.
The proposed bond contains some of the FIT recommendations but not others. In the responses the district makes it clear that they will need to come back to the public in 6 to 7 years and ask for more money to complete the list of projects. The FIT recommended a phase 2, which included replacement/modernization of Maple Grove and River Homelink, a third high school, a new k-4, 5-8 campus. The cost was estimated at $149 million dollars, with some portion covered by state matching funds. This was slated to be 6-7 years after phase 1 and this bond. So the district is planning on doing another bond at that time, and a third bond 6-7 years after that 2nd bond. While the current 05 bond will drop off during that time, if all 3 bonds are approved, the cost increase to taxpayers using these numbers would be astonishing. If the same 280% increase is used for the next bond they will ask for over $600 million, with the 3rd bond being even higher. If we use even the 5% rate they added, in 7 years that 2nd bond will be $315 million and the 3rd will be $450+ million. By the districts numbers, the total for all projects listed in the FIT report would be almost a BILLION dollars, when just two years ago, the FIT recommended total for all 3 phases was estimated at $233 million.
Prices rise over time, inflation does happen, but the district is way out of line on its costs vs inflation by any measurable metric.
The fact that they have not told the taxpayers their plan is concerning.