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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Faciliites Primer

Okay, I probably won't qualify as an "expert" but I'm as close to a civilian expert as you might get (I can think of a few people who might know more). People here had asked for a "primer" of sorts about facilities and especially BEX/BTA. I am going to simplify here, both for space and sanity (yours).

First, Facilities covers a lot of territory including:
  • construction management,
  • custodial,
  • environmental services,
  • planning,
  • maintenance,
  • property management,
  • publishing services,
  • natural resource conservation,
  • risk management,
  • self-help
  • small works.
The head of Facilities is Fred Stephens. The district has between 116-123 properties (it depends what you throw in there but that's about right). Fun Fact: did you know the district owns the property that the Oak Tree shopping area sits on? They do.

The district has what they call a Facilities Master Plan. (I was actually on a committee to rewrite this thing until I realized that had no intent to rewrite it at all but they wanted some community members on the committee for window-dressing. I left the committee but they left my name on the report anyway.) It is called "2020 Facilities Master Plan" but it's already outdated. As Charlie has said, it's more of a report than a plan and that's true. If you read it, though, it will give you some insights into the thinking in Facilities.

Like most other government entities, facilities has its own pot of money from the operating budget (about $34-35M) but BEX and BTA levies/bonds are a separate pot for capital purposes but they, too, are part of facilities. The BEX and BTA money can only be used for capital purposes so that money never co-mingles (well, never say never) with operating.

Basic maintenance gets a little over $9M from that $35M. Basic maintenance is under 1% of the Operating budget and OSPI recommends between 2-3% of the Operating budget.

SPS has 3 on-going levies; they are the Operations levy, the BTA levy and the BEX levy. Operations happens every 3 years with BTA or BEX joining it in rotation. BTA and BEX are 6-year levies. So for this cycle coming in the February 10, 2010 election it is Operations with the BTA levy and then in 3 years it will be Operations with BEX levy.

Operations Levy - (this is from the district's website) "The existing levy provides partial funding for many District programs such as full day kindergarten, Special Education, English Language Learners and lowering class size. The existing levy provides partial funding for many District programs such as full day kindergarten, Special Education, English Language Learners and lowering class size."

The district is asking voters for $442.7M for the Operations levy in February (this gets divided out over the three-year life of the levy but not exactly in thirds). (The last Operations levy was for $397M.)

BEX (Building Excellence) - this the major capital building fund started in 1996. It includes additions, renovations and rebuilds in addition to some infrastructure work. The last one, BEX III, was for $490M. (Note: the district ran BEX as a bond last time but normally puts it forth as a levy. On the one hand, they get all the money from a bond measure but bonds, unlike levies, need a Super Majority rather than a Simple Majority as do levies so the district tends to go with levies.) The district has made tremendous strides in renovating buildings in a relatively short period of time. It has not always been on-time or on budget. To note, the majority of renovated buildings have been in the South end. The newest BEX (BEX IV) coming up in 2014 will likely have more renovations to buildings in the north end.

There is a BEX Oversight Committee (started during BEX II) is made up community construction/facilities professionals who lend their expertise and input to the BEX program. They meet once a month. Here's their webpage. They do have minutes posted but far more is said than appears in the minutes. I try to get to at least 3 of these meetings a year. They are surprisingly frank at these meetings so it's different from Board meetings (although no public input - you probably could if you arranged it in advance).

BEX has its own manager, Don Gillmore. I personally feel that Mr. Gillmore is one of the least effective adminstrators in the district and I say that without any hesitation. Now there is Bill Martin who I thought did oversee BEX but I think he's just below Mr. Gillmore. But Facilities doesn't have him listed and actually not everyone in Facilities is listed so I can't even tell you how many people even work there.

Mr. Martin seems like a bright guy, he's fairly new to the job. He has expressed some frustrations at BEX Oversight Committee meetings about tracking of jobs and revenue and expectations of staff for how their buildings get done. His salary comes from BEX, not Operations. I learned recently that there are 28 FTE for BEX. Mr. Martin himself expressed surprise over this at the last BEX meeting and wondered if all those people would still be needed in the waning years of BEX III, 2011-2013. Me, too.

BTA Levy (Buildings, Technology and Athletics/Academics)
- This was started in 1998 and initially the "A" was only for Athletics. BTA has increasingly become a "catch-all" levy with every kind of project stuck in here. The "B" for buildings is for big-ticket items like HVAC, roofs, windows and water lines. The "T" is for technology. This has become more and more necessary as schools bring in more technology that must be maintained and updated. The "A" has now become athletics/academics although now they lump athletics in as part of academics. The turf redos/track resurfacing of the the athletics fields are pretty much guaranteed in every BTA based on the joint agreement between the District and the Parks department.

BTA has no public oversight. I really have no idea who oversees BTA. Again, Facilities doesn't have the best information at its webpage.

I'm just going to stop here. I'll write a bit more on BEX and BTA when I write a thread about Prop 1., the BTA III levy.

5 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

More fun facts:

The District owns the land under the Jefferson Square shopping center near Junction in West Seattle. It is called Jefferson Square because it is the former home of Jefferson Elementary School.

The district owns the land at Jefferson Square and collects an annual lease for it, but they recently sold the air space over the land and do not collect leases for the residential space over the shopping center.

The District owns a forest, the Cleveland Memorial Forest, on 131 acres somewhere east of Issaquah. The forest is named in honor of Cleveland High School graduates who died in World War II.

Ananda said...

Actually, Bill Martin is now Don Gilmore's boss.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there you go, Ananda. I thought he was but Don is still listed as head of BEX and Bill isn't even in the directory (and he's been there for awhile).

biliruben said...

Much appreciated. Thanks.

seattle citizen said...

Cleveland Forest is quite beautiful. I know a student teacher who brought his students there many years ago.

I wonder if any students have been there since. Institutional memory is often dim, and maybe the current staff at Cleveland has no idea that they have a forest...