Friday, June 12, 2015

BTA IV Updates

I'm going to go from most recent news to later news.

At yesterday's Audit and Finance Committee meeting, there were a few particulars.

One was that Dr. Herndon said there will be a July work session where the Board will see the first project list.  He said that nominations can continue to come into the District. 

BTA I was $150M.  BTA II was $178M, a modest 19% jump.  However, BTA III was $270M which was a huge 52% leap.  What the notation was on the handout about BTA IV was this:

If $350M, then 30% 
If $400M, then 48%

Keep in mind two things.
One, it was announced at the A&F meeting yesterday that, for the first time, the District will go over $1B in spending between capital and operations next year.  

Two, if BTA is $350 and Operations is $550M, that's darn close to what the City wants for its mega-Transportation levy.  (I do want to have a separate thread on the Transportation levy because of increasing focus on schools and transportation.)

Now if the Legislature votes to no longer allow school levies for basic education, that may impact how much the District asks for.

But if the City puts forth a $900M+ levy in the fall (and keep in mind, there are at least two possible other levies), what will that mean for the District's BTA/Operations in Feb. 2016?

It means the District is going to have
(1) to prove to voters - in a real and accountable manner - that they have been good stewards of taxpayer levy dollars,
(2) a better campaign than "it's for the kids," and
(3)  a real nightmare if the City passes its Transportation levy and then the District comes with its hand out.

I have said this over and over - I believe sometime, someone is going to lose a levy.  The question is - who will that be?

I attended the BTA IV meeting last week with about 12 other members of the public.  I have to say it was not the most informative meeting and frankly, probably just for show.  Honestly, there was no real information revealed like how much money the district will ask for nor a District project list.

They mentioned the Facilities Master Plan which is pretty much a joke.  I can say this because, as Charlie has pointed out many times, it is NOT a plan.  It's a report.  Not the same thing.  Also, at one time, I volunteered to work on the committee to revise it and left that committee when I realized they did not want input, they wanted a rubberstamp (and my name on the report which they left there despite me asking to have it taken off).

Highlights
  • for the "T" in BTA, Dr. Herndon talked about "instructional technology for student devices," point of sale and the ability to automate systems that currently use manual processes.  These all sound like reasonable items.  Here's the thing, though - I'm not going to vote for any vague-sounding "we could do this" BTA.  Tell me specifically and in numbers broken out by project, what you will spend the technology dollars on.  As well, as I stated elsewhere, I will not support the levy if technology is more than one-third of the entire amount.
  • I asked about previous BTA amounts but Dr. Herndon said they didn't know yet.
  • I asked about the sharing of BTA dollars and Operations dollars (should both levies pass) with charter schools.  (Two schools - First Place Scholars and Summit Sierra - are the only two that will be open in time to receive any funds from these levies.)  Dr. Herndon said that it would be on a per pupil basis and that might be a more long-term payment as the district would have no way of knowing for certain how many students each school might have.  (I was glad it was not on a per school basis which would likely be a much higher sum.)
  • Dr. Herndon says SPS is one of the top districts for maintenance of facilities (I believe he said in the state).  If that's true, God help those other districts.  
  • You can continue to nominate projects.  The nomination list (partial) given out ran the gamut from Aki Kurose ("in dire need of updates, bathrooms being the greatest need and functioning water fountains - 1/3 don't work"), Alki, Cedar Park, Eckstein, lighting the playfields at Franklin/Garfield/Roosevelt/Ballard for more school/community use, Laurelhurst, Mercer, Rainier Beach HS, Roxhill, Sacajawea, Washington MS.
  • Some notable requests were from Ingraham (which has appeared on every single BTA and BEX since the programs started and yet never got a full renovation).  As well, there was this one "All Title I schools need to have priority for their projects; they don't get the funds needed from grants."  I don't konw if they mean for capital projects (which generally don't have grants except for say, energy savings) or technology (with some schools having PTAs funding computers).  One TOPS nomination was for "one iPad device for each student." 
  • One Sanislo parent said the lighting was so bad around their school that she tripped going into a school event, with her baby in her arms, on the curb.  Dr. Herndon said lighting on the property is the District's and street lighting is the City's.  (It's unclear here which entity has the lighting issues.)
  • Kellie LaRue pointed out that Cedar Park was only supposed to be interim but is now opening as a permanent school and that its capital funding is not really enough.  She also asked for the "Later List" which is a list that exists and shows all the projects considered from the LAST BTA that didn't get done and were rolled over.
  • It was asked if projects just get nominated or are also generated from the Meng assessment of each building.  Dr. Herndon said it could be both especially if they overlap.
  • Leslie Harris asked about pre-K space issues and Dr. Herndon said they were "assessing on an annual basis."  She also asked a good question about FACMAC.  Dr. Herndon punted it off saying that it was a Superintendent committee that had not met for a year.  Oh.
BTA Review

BTA capital levies alternate with Building Excellence (BEX) capital levies. SPS runs a BTA levy every 6 years to fund capital improvements, renovations, major maintenance, technology and academic projects.

Note: years for each BTA are from SPS listings.

BTA I (1998-2004) 6 years? $150M

The $150 million Buildings, Technology and Academics/Athletics (BTA I) capital levy was approved by voters in February 1998. BTA I funded more than 465 small and large facility projects at every school in the city.

BTA II (2004-2012) 8 years? $178M

On February 3, 2004, Seattle voters approved the $178 million Buildings, Technology and Academics II (BTA II) capital levy. The levy funds nearly 700 facility improvement projects and technology upgrades at every school in the district.

BTA III (2010-2015) 5 years? $270M

Seattle Public Schools receives capital levy funds for BTA III from 2011 through 2016.

BTA IV 2016-2021? $?M

At the Work Session on BTA IV on Feb. 25, 2015, technology seemed to get major emphasis.

District says “Technology needs historically start off high on the list and get deprioritized.”
Actually, it’s MAINTENANCE that starts off high on the list and gets deprioritized. The district spends less on general maintenance than it did in the late ‘70s and we have more buildings in use. The only general maintenance done today is “critical maintenance” meaning, emergencies.

I also note that on BTA III there was a list given out but by the time the District got to the levy flyer, there were several (unnoted) changes.

4 comments:

Tech4Testing said...

My fear is the money they will funnel into technology for the sole purpose of giving the SBAC. It's certainly not a coincidence that we finally got wifi when we did.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the SBAC and this new "blended learning" stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Dr. Herndon says SPS is one of the top districts for maintenance of facilities (I "believe he said in the state). If that's true, God help those other districts.

I wouldn't be surprised in terms of total dollars, though I'm not sure exactly what is being referred to in terms of maintenance. I mean, we've got a lot more buildings, many of them are way older than they should be, so even minimal maintenance to keep them limping along is astronomical. Offhand, 3 of the 4 closest schools to me should really be torn down or massively renovated as far as I can tell. They all look horrible on the outside and are clearly suffering on the two I've been inside. The 4th building was fairly recently renovated so I'd expect their current maintenance to be fairly low.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

What NE Parent said.

Also, no offense to TOPS families, but really, an iPad per student in the elementary grades? That seems to me to be a completely unreasonable and unnecessary request.

I am fed up with maintenance being shoved to the end of the queue every single time. It is absolutely ridiculous.

Props to Kellie and Leslie for pushing on those issues. FACMAC did great work until the District realised it was a threat to its way of doing things and slowly killed it. But your experience, Melissa, on the BTA review committee, where they just wanted you to rubber stamp the final recommendations, seems to be the district's standard operating procedure for all advisory committees with public input/membership.

-flibbertigibbet