OCSD Infrastructure – NO COMPREHENSIVE PLAN!
Replacing Schools versus Fixing Up Obsolete Schools:
WHY Hasn’t OCSD Done a Cost Benefit Analysis?
First Things First:
How Much Tax $$$ Does OCSD ALREADY Receive for Capital Projects?
School Districts in Florida receive all kinds of funds, but some of them are restricted to use for Capital projects – i.e. large infrastructure projects, like building new schools or making large improvements to existing buildings or infrastructure.
For FY 2021-22, the Okaloosa School District (OCSD) expected to receive around $55.6 Million from Okaloosa Property Taxes and Sales Taxes for Capital Improvement. You can see that on Line 173 in their Five Year Work Plan at http://www.okaloosa.k12.fl.us/finance/Publications/BudgetBooksFY2022/Capital/2.pdf.
How Much TOTAL Tax $$$ Will OCSD Have for Capital Projects?
Using the Five Year Work Plan mentioned above, the total expected Capital intake for the Next Five years is $294,660,854.00 (Line 173, far right column). For the Ten Years (2020-2030) with the Sales Tax approved in 2020, the School District will receive around $600 MILLION for Capital Projects. Yes, that’s well over over HALF-A-BILLION (with a “B”)! That’s quite a lot of Taxpayers’ money – BUT they MUST NOT squander it.
How Does OCSD Figure Out What to Do with All That Money?
OCSD already has a contract with a company called Jacobs-Titan for “Total Project Management” (TPM). You can read a little more at https://www.okaloosaschools.com/index.php/depts/facilities/construction. According to that page, “The TPM is a School Board directed and approved program that provides the district with services that include design and all aspects of construction within a guaranteed maximum price. Projects include new construction, major renovations, roof replacements, and disaster repairs.”
Before OCSD contracted with Jacobs-Titan, it sent out RFQU (Request For Qualifications) 19-01 on August 14, 2018 (https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/okaloosa/Board.nsf/files/B57SRA731E79/$file/RFQU19-01_Final.pdf) so it could start the process of hiring a firm to manage all construction projects from inception to design to construction to warranty. Paragraph A13 on Page 8 of that document contains this task for the contractor: “Assist the School Board and its staff in the planning and development of the overall capital improvement program and its prioritized project listing to complete the work within the time period specified and to comply with requirements of bondholders, if any, as well as state or federal agencies as to design or construction requirements.”
On November 13, 2018, OCSD signed the contract with Jacobs/L-3 for TPM services. (Jacobs/L-3 turned the contract over to Jacobs-Titan on March 1, 2019 – see https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/okaloosa/Board.nsf/files/BBC4ZL6D2B97/$file/Assignment%20and%20Assumption%20Agreement%20Jacobs%20Titan.pdf)
Here’s a link to the 2018 contract with Jacobs/L-3 (which is now OCSD’s contract with Jacobs-Titan): https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/okaloosa/Board.nsf/files/B6AVYN7F1294/$file/2018%20Total%20Program%20Management%20Services%20Agreement%20final.pdf.
Paragraph 2.1.1 of the contract states the contractor will: “Provide all program services in Section 2 of the Request for Qualifications for Construction Total Program Management (TPM) Services for Okaloosa County Schools Capital Improvement Program as issued by the Owner dated September 11, 2018.”
That tells us that OCSD already has a firm under contract to help it evaluate the proper planning to undertake in its Capital Improvement Program (i.e. building school buildings). So, OCSD has a professional construction management company which can help it decide if the best way forward is to replace the district’s oldest buildings or renovate them. In fact, OCSD had Jacobs-Titan survey all of its current school buildings to create its project “wish list” of projects for the 2020 Sales Tax Increase. BUT, they apparently have NOT asked them to do a Cost-Benefit Analysis on replacing any of the oldest schools.
THE CORE QUESTION:
With WELL OVER HALF-A-BILLION $$, WHY Wouldn’t we Replace Obsolete Schools?
THAT is a GREAT Question! We can’t figure out WHY any public enterprise with THAT kind of Tax $$$ for Capital Projects wouldn’t even study whether its better to replace its oldest schools (Many over 60 years old!) with shiny new schools for our students, teachers and staff. But here‘s a little background information….
What are the considerations when deciding to renovate or replace? Among the biggest are Maintenance and Energy costs. Obsolete buildings are VERY expensive to maintain, heat and cool, even if they’re renovated. The Okaloosa School District’s utility bill recently went UP $800,000 annually (see https://midbaynews.com/post/fpl-price-hike-hits-okaloosa-schools). In fact, when deciding whether or not to renovate or demolish and replace old buildings, organizations have to consider future energy and maintenance costs. How do they do that? They perform what’s known as a “Cost-Benefit Analysis.” Essentially, they look at two scenarios: 1. Renovate the old building and use it for another 30-50 years, all the while paying a lot more to heat, cool and maintain it; or 2. Demolish and replace the old building and build a new one and pay a lot less to heat, cool and maintain the new building for 50 years. #1 is less expensive initially, but over time, #2 often saves Tax $$$, even though the up-front cost is more, because the maintenance and energy costs are MUCH less over the lifespan of the building.
Here’s a great article which discusses some of these considerations and offers tools to help make a decision: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jcen/2016/5737160/.
And two more:
And here’s an important quote from the third article cited above….
“A good analysis should be comprehensive and look at all aspects of a building, documenting the condition of each component, estimating the life expectancy, and determining the cost of replacement or upgrade.”
Looking specifically at energy costs, the Florida Department of Education actually tracks energy expenditures of school districts. You can view them on line by year at http://www.fldoe.org/finance/edual-facilities/annual-energy-maintenance-operations-r.stml.
For the last several school years, OCSD’s facilities had anywhere from the third-highest to the seventh-highest Total Energy Cost per Square Foot among all Florida School Districts. And the costs are Rising: https://midbaynews.com/post/fpl-price-hike-hits-okaloosa-schools. That is a solid indication of one thing: we have many OLD, if not obsolete buildings! Do we want to pay through the nose to heat and cool them for 40 or 50 more years? Or would it be cheaper in the long run to replace them? THE SCHOOL BOARD IS NOT DEMANDING A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION! THEY’RE NOT DOING THEIR JOB!
In most, if not all cases, the acreage of the existing campuses likely has enough land dedicated to ball fields, parking lots or playgrounds – or simply not being used – to build a replacement building BEFORE demolishing the existing building. Some are tighter than others, and some may require the replacement school to be multi-story. The Bottom Line: A Cost-Benefit Analysis would determine if we can build a replacement school building on the current campus while the school operates and move into it upon completion so as to not disrupt classes. In most, if not all cases this appears feasible, especially if we build multi-story buildings.
BUT, that’s where a TPM Contractor (like Jacobs-Titan) comes in. They help districts make these sorts of decisions and formulate forward-looking plans so that the mission is accomplished while the facilities are under construction. BUT THE SCHOOL BOARD IS NOT ANALYZING THE PROBLEM…THEY JUST SPEND OUR $$$, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!
OCSD has 37 schools, not including specialty campuses like Charter Schools, Juvenile Justice educational facilities, etc. If you want to see the entire list of proposed projects, it’s available at https://www.schoolcentsmakessense.com/img/school-needs.pdf.
We won’t regurgitate the entire list here, but here are a few observations from the list….
14 Schools are AT LEAST 60 Years Old – and the total of proposed projects for them is $71.8 MILLION.
8 Schools are 50-60 years old – and the total of proposed projects for them is $75.3 MILLION.
Our first question was, “WHY are they going to spend OVER 150 MILLION Tax $$ fixing up Schools which are over 50 or 60 years old, when they may be better demolishing them and rebuilding?” In some cases, it may be more economical to extend the life of a very old facility rather than demolish it and build a new one. However, for EVERY school in the district, the School Board should be asking, “Is it more economical to keep it and renovate it or demolish and build a new school?” They are NOT asking that question: they ALREADY decided to put $$$ into EVERY school, NO MATTER HOW OLD!
What’s the Answer?
THEY HAVEN’T DONE THE WORK TO FIGURE IT OUT!
Despite there being Well Over Half-a-Billion Taxpayer $$ on the line, OCSD made a decision to renovate ALL of its existing schools apparently without ever analyzing whether it’s a good idea to replace any. They did that even though they have a contract with a company which could help figure out the best Course of Action. Failure to perform a Cost-Benefit Analysis and craft a long-term plan is indicative of an organization which isn’t worried about wasting Taxpayer $$$.
This Has to Stop!
With Well Over Half-a-Billion Taxpayer $$ on the line, OCSD should be doing its homework and coming up with a Comprehensive Plan for Infrastructure over the next 50 years. They simply are not doing that. Instead of doing the responsible thing, they just spend Our Tax $$$ – NO Questions Asked!