Our School Board and facilities committee continues their modus operandi of reckless spending and a total lack of transparency. It is amazing that such breaches of trust can exist in the governing and management of our school system. The Patrick Henry School project was estimated at $44 M to build an elementary school complex — 38 M for the school and 6 M for a recreation center The final estimated cost is now projected to be $61M — outrageous, 17M over budget — a 38 percent increase over the agreed upon cost.
In February of this year the School Board moved $5.7 M from the planned Polk School renovation to the Patrick Henry project in order to cover the elevated costs of Option A at Patrick Henry. We have been informed that another $3.8 million will be moved to cover the same expenses as in February (funding for the additional 17,000 sq. feet of building space 15 percent more than was planned), as well as funds needed to avoid conflicts associated with Dominion power lines and the construction of a retaining wall to manage land topography). This current request is the same exact request for which funds were moved from Polk in February — a duplicate request for money. When may I ask will the spending spree stop and where is the accountability? Give me a final budget and stick to it.
There is more.
The C1 Patrick Henry project was the project of choice allowing no bus routes on Latham — neighborhood friendly — and a safer bet for traffic flow. The A 1 project was chosen to save $1.5-$2.0M — instead we are now in the hole for 17M and there are buses on Latham Street, less open space, a much larger school footprint — all of the above with no citizen intervention and input on this growing deficit.
The citizens meetings were a mere formality to check the box as completed and move on.
Jefferson Houston was delivered 25 percent over budget and the infamous tennis courts at the high school 100 percent over budget. Every major school related project is always over spent. From the very beginning, the management of this project was questionable. In a June 2015 City Council meeting Paul Smedberg stated that facilities had failed to deliver clarity and cost on this project and those who participated should be fired. The project continues to be poorly planned, poorly presented and poorly budgeted.
With rising taxes on all fronts, it is a bitter pill to swallow when agencies shun prudence and cost issues. We do not need a Taj-Mahal we need a school — brick and block, a structure, not a palace. We also need a complete audit of the project before completion to keep this project from escalating out of control; 80M is not an unrealistic final number for this project. We have 12 more schools to deal with. Citizens voice your objection for the wasteful spending of your tax money. City Council get a hold of this mismanagement issue. And the newly appointed blue ribbon panel of advisors, where are you?