DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - December 14, 2007

Committee looks at Measure A priorities again

New plan would think long-term, save $41 million for now

by Natalie O'Neill

When costs go up, the school district has to roll with the punches. That's what the most recent facilities oversight report - presented to the school board last week - is helping staff do.

Construction cost inflation and shifts in long-term planning have called for a reevaluation of Measure A school facility priorities. So the district's facility oversight committee is suggesting certain improvements be delayed and reevaluated.

Its report shows the new plan would shed a cost burden of about $41 million for the district.

In 2002, facility improvements funded by the $260 million Measure A bond were expected to total close to that amount with a 3 percent inflation cost factored into the equation.

But dramatic worldwide increases in both construction labor and materials like copper, concrete and steel have now set the district project costs at about $388 million.

"It's five years later, things do change," said Chris Kenber, vice president of the Measure A Facilities Oversight Advisory Committee.

Two of the most financially drastic priority reconsiderations were at San Ramon Valley High School and Stone Valley Middle School.

Planned funds will likely decrease approximately $7.2 million for the high school's parking, roofs and walkways. At Stone Valley, an approximately $6.8 million decrease was made for what was expected to cover the school's kitchen, electrical and roof issues.

Funding for these schools was delayed as part of forward-thinking logic, Kenber said.

"You really do need to think in the long-term or you'll end up doing silly things," he said.

For example, San Ramon Valley High School is now considering plans for a multi-story remodeling - part of a master plan to redesign the school. It wouldn't make sense to build walkways before a major revamp, he said.

Margaret Brown, assistant superintendent for the facilities development division, agreed.

"We wouldn't want to put in new covered walkways if we're just going to tear them down," she said.

The story at Stone Valley Middle School isn't much different.

Spending the planned $8.3 million to upgrade the school - which will likely be torn down and rebuilt in the next five year - would be a waste of taxpayer money, Kenber said.

Instead, the committee suggested, for now, that $1.4 million be spent on master plan and design for the middle school.

Other project delays include holding off on replacing portables at nine schools including Charlotte Wood Middle School, Tassajara Hills Elementary and Alamo Elementary.

"It wasn't personal. It wasn't about 'my kid's school,'" Brown said at the school board meeting.

When prioritizing, the oversight committee considered in order of importance: safety, impact on the largest number of students, financial practicality, and equity among schools.

Members of the oversight committee reviewed each school in person, by physically going to the site.

"It became rather obvious what the priorities were," Brown said.

The district has acquired about $34 million from state funds and $18.6 million from interest for facilities since 2002, the report shows. The district has been aggressive about obtaining state funds and this helped cover the cost inflation, staff members said.

"We chase after all available funding. We seriously investigate and try to get those funds. ... Kids love learning in a new building," Brown said.

School board members accepted the report and said they were pleased with the findings.

"You're dedicated and you ask good questions," Board Member Paul Gardner told committee spokesmen.

The school board also noted another bond for the district will be necessary for maintenance - to protect the district's investments.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has spent almost $1 billion on upgrades in the past 10 years. Of that, about $560 million has come from developer fees and about $220 million has come from the state.

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