A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Month: March 2020

What to do with Jeffco’s $50M 5B Bond Windfall?

When Jeffco went to the financial market to sell bonds for its Capital Improvement Program, interest rates were low. Due to the way the bond was structured, this allowed Jeffco to obtain $50M in unexpected funding, or bond premium, for essentially the same costs.

But what to do with that extra $50M?

  1. In its 5B bond campaign Jeffco leadership stated (falsely) that the District had $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance needs. So why not use that $50M to address some of those needs that the $546M of 5B money couldn’t?
  2. Replace several of the schools that were slated for replacement in the 2016 failed Bond proposal such as Kyffin, Green Gables, Fletcher Miller or Parr.
  3. Ensure there is equity. Once 5B projects are completed there will still be several schools that have obvious FCI values much higher than other schools. For example, Vivian will have a FCI of over 44% while Stober, Colorow, Muhlholm and Lumberg will all have FCIs above 22%, well above the average FCI for District schools. Why not use some of the bond premium to actually provide the equity that Jeffco is always so quick to talk about?
  4. Reduce the amount of Capital Transfer from the General Fund that will be needed each year. The Capital Improvement Program is predicated on receiving $23M per year from the General Fund. It looks like there is already a shortfall this year of $2.1M. So, as a minimum, use the $50M bond premium to reduce the pressure on the General Fund. Spread out over the remaining 5 years of the Capital Improvement Project that would mean a reduction of $10M from the General Fund each year.

This $50M is an OPPORTUNITY to use taxpayers’ money to over deliver and make some additional enhancements to Jeffco.

To do anything less will be fiscal mismanagement, demonstrating that Jeffco is not capable of adequately managing the money taxpayers trusted it with. It will also make it more difficult to get Bonds passed in the future.

Do not use this $50M as added contingency for a program that already has $86M or 15% contingency built into it!

Board Governance, Fiduciary Responsibility, Transparency and 5B Accountability

At the end of January, Tim Reed gave a rosy assessment during his Capital Improvement Program overview.

Unfortunately, things may not be as rosy as he wants everyone to believe.

Tim Reed did not tell the Board of Education, that based on the District’s project estimates presented to voters in 2018 that there are currently at least 5 schools over budget. And, this is just using costs from Board approved contracts.

These overages will be much higher when prorating District wide contracts for IT and Security, allocating Track upgrade costs and any contracts under $500,000 that are not readily publicly available. In addition, it is highly unlikely that these will be the last costs at these schools.

A mere sixteen months after 5B approval, this is not a good track record.

These 5 schools include:

  1. Three Creeks
    • Flipbook Estimate – $4,697,000
    • Contracts Awarded – $5,044,317 + Track(from $19.5M contract), IT and Security Upgrades
  2. Wilmott
    • Flipbook Estimate – $3,894,141
    • Contracts Awarded – $6,694,585 + IT and Security Upgrades
  3. Columbine HS
    • Flipbook Estimate – $14,129,966
    • Contracts Awarded – $15,548,043 + Track(from $18M contract), IT and Security Upgrades
  4. Arvada HS
    • Flipbook Estimate – $14,765,828
    • Contracts Awarded – $15,548,043 + Track(from $19.5M contract), IT and Security Upgrades
  5. Conifer HS
    • Flipbook Estimate – $9,820,651
    • Contracts Awarded – $9,782,705 + Track(from $19.5M contract), IT and Security Upgrades

With $86M in Contingency, $50M in Bond Premium and a few $M saved from cheating Charter schools from their fair share, some overage MAY be alright. But, does the Board KNOW that it is alright? Will there be enough money left to deliver on the promises to the schools which will not be getting work done until the end based on this current rate of overages and use of contingency funds?

And what about the now known extras that were not identified in the Flipbook? Extras such as $7M for the North Transportation Hub, or $4.225M for Trailblazer Stadium or even $750,000 for Project Management (that’s over $11M so far). What else is out there? That eats into the Contingency and Premium pretty quickly.

Doesn’t the Board have a Governance and Fiduciary Responsibility to ensure that everything that was promised to taxpayers is delivered?

I would think that the Board can’t deliver on that promise unless it begins looking at contracts as part of the big picture, starting at how they fit within the Flipbook budget of each school. Then the Board needs to understand how each school fits within the Bond’s total budget. Continuing to approve contracts piecemeal, one at a time, does not give anyone an idea of how spending fits within the overall Bond budget. This is how surprises happen and money runs out.

All decent Project Managers track projects’ budgets. In this case, it could be as simple as tracking the following and have staff report on this to the Board with every contract approval request:

  1. Original Flipbook Estimate
  2. Contracts Awarded to Date
  3. Estimate of Remaining Work
  4. Total Variance from Original Estimate

It would seem that some of the Board’s primary functions are Governance and Fiduciary Responsibility. Without looking at each contract as part of the overall budget, the Board is failing, especially since so many school projects are already over budget.

In addition, the Board has repeatedly stated their goal of public transparency. By allowing staff to continue to merely give rosy 5B assessments without including project budget tracking numbers will mean that the Board is failing in that aspect too,

It’s time for the Board to exercise their Governance and Fiduciary Responsibilities and require District staff to fully disclose budget numbers in a manner that provides accountability to the very specific and detailed public promises made in the District’s 5B Flipbook.