Monday, May 21, 2012

BEX Updates

Earlier in the month the Board had a Work Session on BEX IV.  Here are some highlights and commentary.

The beginning of the meeting saw staff go over the input from the BEX IV community meetings.  It was surprisingly thin.  All that was said was that there were 510 oral and written comments and that Option #2 received the most yes votes (although I later saw the numbers and it was close between #2 and #3).   Director Martin-Morris had to ask about how this informs the Board what the community is thinking on this issue.  Pegi McEvoy said that info in was in a Friday update that had been published two weeks prior. 

Here's a link to the webpage on the community meetings for BEX IV.

Head of Capital Building projects, Lucy Morello, said they would be carrying over some major maintenance from BTA III.  This puzzles me.  I thought we had a separation of BEX and BTA precisely so that each has its own discrete area.  This goes to the issue of co-mingling of these funds and projects and never been able to properly account for these monies.

I wish BEX IV would be as pure a capital levy as possible.  I take out any major maintenance and any academics.  There was no academic component in the last BEX.

Director Smith-Blum asked about the money set aside for Memorial Stadium.  Ms. Morello said this money is to redo the press box and put in some ADA updates.  This work had been in BTA II and was deferred.   It would be great someday to redo Memorial Stadium but at this point, upkeep is about all that can be done.  To keep in mind, Memorial Stadium serves as the home field for those high schools that do not have their own fields for both football and soccer games (as well as graduations).

Director Smith-Blum also asked about a line item for wireless for schools - was that for only the schools on the BEX IV list or all schools?  The answer was all schools and she was very happy to hear that.

Director Carr asked about advertising at the stadium and Pegi McEvoy said that that was a separate discussion around scoreboards.  (And indeed, it did come up at last week's Board meeting.)

Director Smith-Blum asked about "green" technology and building, pushing for solar panels on our new buildings. She said the district shouldn't miss an opportunity to get this kind technology in and it could be leveraged with deals through City Light.   (Director Patu asked about having solar in an area with a lot of rain and it was explained that even here, it might be worth doing.)

Director Martin-Morris spoke up and said he was "nervous" about this new figure for BEX IV at $734M and wanted to get the figure down to $650M.  He said he wanted to balance the need versus winning over constituents.   Ms. McEvoy agreed and said they were looking for ways to drive it down as well.

Director Carr also echoed those remarks, again saying (as she has in the past) that they need to make their case and show due diligence on how the district arrives at the final figure.

There was then discussion around the cost per square foot per child (which I found out is a different number than just square foot building cost).  Ms. Morello said that our average is about $132 per sq foot and the national is $124 and admitted SPS has been higher and they are trying to bring that number down.  Director Smith-Blum said it was an opportunity to look at design specs and saw that other districts spent about $100.  There was some back-and-forth here over that low cost being in warmer places.  Sherry said that many schools in the West don't have inside corridors  (true) and they don't have a gym or cafeteria (I think mostly false - when I was growing up in Arizona we hardly ever ate outside).  They may not have a gym but they do have cafeterias.

Director Peaslee asked about anticipated growth and how to not overbuild, wondering aloud if there were a way to use temporary structures.

Then Ms. Morello said something a bit startling which was that they had saved $27M in BEX III and BTA III.   If this is true, then between this pot of money and the Community Schools money, there is $60M in capital money.  This could be put to great use so I'll have to ask about what this can be used for in the district.

Another interesting thing Ms. Morello said is that the district "self-nominates" for landmark status.  I'm not sure if that is preemptive to the City doing it or what.  Mann and Cedar Park may get that status.

There was some back-and-forth about needed lot size and couldn't we build more if we go up rather than out.

Smith-Blum and Martin-Morris had a bit of back and forth over the size of a viable K-8 school, with Kay worrying over "shooting ourselves in the foot" if the cohort doesn't expand at 6th and offer more programs that students want.  Jane Addams would likely be about 1,000 sudents.

Director Peaslee worried aloud about where the Native American program would go if not at Wilson-Pacific.  As well she noted that Middle College also needed to be sited.  (There were many Middle College supporters at the last Board meeting who are very worried about their program.)  Last was the siting of the Home School Resource Center (which I believe has been renamed but I can't find the new name).

Then there was discussion around the downtown elementary school.   I have seen figures at the Downtown Association website and the district is apparently trying to put their own figures together.  It may be the case that there are open seats in the region (like at Lowell and Madrona k-8) but that the need might be more in the QA/Magnolia region. 

Kay and Sherry both were firm in their belief that this school should probably go into BEX V.  Kay offered that even if the district had the money for a building, there is no land (and none had been offered).  She said that what could happen is to have a "condo" school.  Meaning, lease some space in one of the new buildings going up at SLU and roll-up a school grade by grade.

I see this as a great idea because by the time you would get to nearly K-5, we'd be at BEX V and this project could be first on the list.  It would really make the Downtown Association look like heroes to support this levy AND put themselves onto the next BEX.  Sort of that united front/planned growth look that voters might like to see.

Pegi McEvoy pointed out that Vancouver, B.C. had an elementary school downtown but it took them 13 years to get it going.  Sherry stated that planning should proceed but that her skeptism was that this was for downtown to use as marketing to sell condos.  (Note: they would have to start building actual family-sized condos to get people with kids to buy them.)  She said there were too many needs, in all directions, in this district for this to happen.

Kay also expressed doubt over the need to reopen TT Minor if there was capacity at Lowell and Madrona.  She also said something odd about opening a foreign language immersion program downtown and attracting people outside the area.  I think whatever they do, the school downtown has to be for resident kids there before anyone else can get in.

Kay was also worried about World School having to go down two regions to Columbia while Meany is being renovated versus going to TT Minor which is nearby.  (Update:  it seems that Smith-blum was talking about housing the Central area kids at TT Minor and not World School.   I know what she said so this confuses me so I'll have to ask her about it.)  The district thinks they will need TT Minor later.  They all said they were waiting for June enrollment numbers to guide their decisions.

Director McClaren said that Nova would rather be housed at TT Minor rather than Mann.  McEvoy said that it was a timing issue because they needed to move Nova into Mann and that would be before TT Minor is ready.  Director Smith-Blum thought Nova was better sited at Mann as Nova students could access Garfield's offerings down the hill.  McClaren said that there were also 200 potential World School students throughout the district who might want to be at the World School if it had a true high school to graduation program.  Moving the World School two regions away just as they are rolling out 12th grade is not helpful to building a strong school.  World School needs to stay in a Central location period.

There was then a discussion around Arbor Heights and its many issues.  Pegi said that they cleaned up the water and mold from the latest broken pipe.  (They had gushing hot water for two hours into one of the kindergarten rooms.  You can imagine the mess and the disruption at the school.)  In regard to Arbor Heights unhappiness with being at the end of the BEX IV timetable, McEvoy said it might be possible to move them to an interim site before their rebuild.  One issue, that comes up frequently with renovations, is that like other sites, Arbor Heights will need pilings shored up.

Director Patu brought up that there had been some discussion at Van Asselt over possibly moving back to their old site.  The issue is that the AAA building is hard for some students, especially Special Ed, to navigate and, as well, the old site afforded the opportunity for a garden.  Morello said they could look at that but the population had grown and couldn't all fit in the main Van Asselt building (there two buildings on the site, on considerably older than the other).  However, many Van Asselt student live nearer the old site and, as well, with VS being in the AAA building, they are uncomfortably close to Wing Luke.

The last item that I was there for was a page explaining how the backlog of maintenance would go down if this levy were approved by voters.  This is somewhat true but the issue remains that (1) we are adding on new/reopened buildings all the time and (2) the district MUST maintain its buildings or that backlog will just build up again.  If we spend $100M on a high school, we have to respect the investment voters have made and keep these buildings up.

One issue that I missed hearing the discussion about was the under/over capacity projections.  The presentation had many pages about these possibilities.  It would be terrible for the district to overbuild.  That would really put their credibility on the line in the future so they have to find that sweet spot between relief for overcrowding now, growth in the immediate future, and any flatline or rollback of growth beyond that.

A couple of days later, there was the BEX Oversight Committee meeting.  

Director Smith-Blum chaired this meeting and she is interested in having a competition for university students to think of innovative ideas for school buildings particularly around green issues.  It is NOT for them to win the ability to design a building but rather, think of new ideas that might be incorporated into the design of a new building.

It was an interesting discussion as these professionals had a lot to say about "passive" design which is orienting a building properly on a site so as to maximize things like sunlight, drainage, etc.  The point was made that the cost of building is a much smaller cost over the lifetime of the building than is a sustainable building (the cost of operating it).

It was suggested that in terms of building and finding the right balance, that the district could use boundary changes rather than building to solve problems.  This is true; you can juggle boundaries more easily BUT that ease comes at the feet of families.

One committee member made the statement that enrollment projections are "program agnostic" and that parents think of programs as institutions but the district think of them as way to guide property management.

We can think about what BEX IV is shaping up to be in another thread and an important question I would like for you to consider is - how do we sell BEX IV to taxpayers?  Because saying "it's for the kids" is not going to sell it this time.  Do you think having both levies come in UNDER $1B would matter to voters?

18 comments:

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I wonder if Morello (re BTA/BEX) was talking about seismic work. There are a lot of schools getting seismic work on BEX. Some are also getting some done under BTA. I asked about this at one of the meetings. She told me that if it made sense the projects would be combined so that the schools would not have work done twice with two different contractors.
-made sense

mirmac1 said...

mirmac1 said...
I found it ironic to discover these tidbits today, right before reading in the Times that the condo market will be dead for the next few years.


Wow! Let's build a school next to the North Downtown Substation Project!


Burgess likes ideas from brokers living on QA

Anonymous said...

From the district's website:
Homeowner cost based on 2011 average home value = $453,000*
Annual Cost  Additional cost
per homeowner per yr

BEX III Current ‐ $490M $317 0
BEX IV (3 options)
Option 1:  $528M $321 $4
Option2: $700M $426 $109
Option 3:  $892M $542           $225
*$453,000 is 2011 average residential value for Seattle School District as stated in the 2012 King County 
Assessor ’s Annual Report

So if you asking $1Billion, we are looking of an increase of near $600 per year JUST for schools. Don't forget the expensive Seawall, library, and a host of other bonds and levies that according to the same Powers that be, are all must have. We just passed the family Education levy. Now the talk of a new stadium which with careful reading still hooks us taxapyers.

I think taxpayers are overwhelmed. Better to ask for less and see what you can do for less. Right now I don't think we are passing smart levies/bonds and are using the monies wisely. It's not just SPS, but I think of the Parks Levy that was meant to acquire new park and greenspace, but NOT for upkeeping existent ones. So now we are putting "parks" in all sorts of wierd places, and letting our jewel in the crowns to fall apart for lack of maintenance budget. It's too crazy and all of this has an effect on voters who are slow to realize, especially during the boom years. But we are waking up now.

What SPS is asking is so much larger and it has not made good decisons and use of its BEX/BTA money. The concern is about how well it manages and keeps accounting of such funding. As a taxpayer, I'm far from convince that the admin has all the financial controls in place and the people capable of managing it. Worse, I'm not sure we have a Board capable of governing SPS. We will have another new Superintedent who will need time to catch up (not that I would have been reassured with Dr. Enfiled). As a result, I'm worry about voting for even a $500 million dollar levy. I won't vote for $1 Billion school levies.

-voter

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my tabulated columns came out messy and hard to read, but you can go to the district's website for actual breakdown for homeowner's cost, pg. 14 that Melissa provided the link to in her original post.

voter

Anonymous said...

Voter, I can't figure out which document you're referring to. can you provide a link?

JS

Anonymous said...

Never mind, found it:
http://bit.ly/GXz23G

That's not an increase of $542, that's the amount replacing BEX III, which ends, so a projected net increase of $225. (Unless I'm misunderstanding you.)

Still not chump change, but I'm glad the board is looking at pulling back these numbers. And it sounds like SLU is falling off the table.

JS

Catherine said...

McEvoy said that it was a timing issue because they needed to move Nova into Mann and that would be before TT Minor is ready. ::: So adding onto Mann (an insufficiently large addition BTW, Nova will have to reduce their enrollment) takes less time than a rehab of TT Minor? That sounds like a basic project management failure.

Director Smith-Blum thought Nova was better sited at Mann as Nova students could access Garfield's offerings down the hill. :::And how often has that happened in the past? Never that I'm aware of. Garfield is over full, Nova students don't have a way to sign up for the classes. This is a bogus argument based on our experience.

Anonymous said...

Melissa -
Not sure I follow the discussion about the size of K-8s. You said, "Jane Addams would likely be about 1000 students." I thought the K-8 building planned for the Cedar Park site (for the Jane Addams K-8 program)was about 600 seats? Are you talking about the new middle school in the Jane Addams building? The middle school is planned to have about 1000 seats.

-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

Mirmac1: Thanks for posting the Times story. Blogger ate my post. Where is SPS getting the numbers on downtown dwellers with kids? According to this piece the condo inventory will start moving and then that's it. No one is up for taking more losses. A commenter asked "Why aren't we building family-affordable condos" and the answer was the high pr$ce downtown land. Developments like Olive 8 and Escala weren't built for families making less 6 figures.

So where are the downtown or Belltown or "Uptown" kids? We already know where the kids are with water gushing into their classrooms.

Mr White

Anonymous said...

I will absolutely not vote for this no matter what the price tag. The district has shown they cant plan, cant manage and cant project demographics at all. Not to mention the problems they have with various staffing issues, and the way they keep botching cirriculum adoptions, etc.

I have also had it up to here with the school board. Sherry Carr should be ashamed of herself for her "representation" over the past few years, and Harium Martin Morris is a joke.

The only thing they will listen to is a large scale failure of a levy.

Now they want a billion dollars with a "trust us we know what we're doing this time" I dont think so.

I am sure it will pass though, as the one thing Seattelites like to do is pass levies, no matter what.

Sign me - "Know a levy failure is bad but I just dont care anymore"

Anonymous said...

No SLU school in this BEX round. That there are higher needs is beyond obvious.

-skeptical-

mirmac1 said...

SLU or "downtown" school is simply a figment in "Mayor" Burgess' Emerald city dreams.

Fine, let him pay for it out of his campaign funds. He already acts as if our $220M FEL monies are for him to bestow on his minions. He reminds me of Charles Royer and his friggin' pipe dreams.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

So let me see if understand this correctly. Carr, Martin-Morris and DeBell fresh of the transportation debacle which proved their totally dysfunctional relationship with both the community they allegedly represent and the school district bounce right back with no accountability for their actions and weigh in on BEX?. Do these people never realize when they are out of their depth?

Anonymous said...

Adams in Ballard can't fit more kids that will be coming out of all of the new construction. They need to rebuild Loyal Heights, not North Beach, to handle the growing Ballard enrollment. There is no other option, Adams is bordered by water, after all, so the "non construction" capacity fix of boundary redrawing won't work! This is a no brainer. They should look at a map. Also STEM should go to Fsirmount and it should be 650 seats and they should not do Hughes. Why do 2 schools of 300 instead of 1 school of 650. It is too expensive to build and too expensive to operate

--signed BEX watcher who may vote no

mirmac1 said...

"Mayor" Burgess has already appointed himself uber-superintendent. He WILL have his way or he goes into a snit. Read this exchange when he doesn't get credit for spending OUR FEL $$$.

"Where's my thank you card?! Wah!

Melissa Westbrook said...

North End, there I go confusing you with programs versus buildings. Yes, the Jane Addams building's middle school will be 1,000, Jane Addams K-8 at Cedar Park. Apologies.

BEX watcher, you should pass this onto staff and the Board. I don't know why they picked North Beach but I assumed condition/size.

I agree about not doing Hughes. If they don't, they could do Arbor Heights sooner.

Catherine said...

North Beach had $1million of work done within the last 3 years (I think two summers ago). I have to think that it's primarily size - though I'm sure new bathrooms would be a nice change.