HISD’s Bond Oversight Committee met this week to review third quarter progress on the district’s $1.89 billion bond program and received a project-by-project analysis that outlines additional funding that the district potentially needs to ensure all work is completed as initially described in the 2012 bond election.
The committee discussed the need for additional funds to address higher construction costs, which have increased significantly since the bond was passed in 2012. The administration has submitted a supplemental funding proposal, which would require Board of Education approval. The additional funding would not involve any tax increase.
“The escalation and costs that we’re seeing are real numbers – those aren’t projections anymore,” said Dan Bankhead, HISD’s general manager of Facilities Design. “As recently as last week, we’ve talked to other districts and they’re seeing the same kinds of things in their construction programs.”
Tuesday’s Bond Oversight Committee meeting follows an internal audit on the construction cost escalation and inflation. At the meeting, committee members had questions about the data referenced in the internal report.
Some BOC members suggested that a more localized look at Houston’s construction economy would provide important insight into the issue.
HISD’s bond team is planning to review its project-by-project analysis with trustees in the coming days to answer questions and address their concerns. Trustees have called for an independent audit to accompany the recent internal audit and subsequent management response.
“We welcome a third party audit,” said Sundaresh Kamath, HISD’s officer of Construction and Facilities Services. “Can we get better? Absolutely – anybody can improve themselves. But this is mostly an escalation in price.”
The team stressed that it remains committed to delivering quality schools, as promised. Until a Board decision is made on the supplemental funding proposal, staff will continue working within the current approved budgets.
Third quarter update discussed
During the third quarter, several projects began vertical construction, including Condit ES, South Early College HS, North Houston Early College HS, and Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School. In addition, it was noted that the non-bond-funded North Forest HS and North Forest Early Childhood Center also went vertical in the same time period.
“We have a lot of progress to show you this morning,” Kamath said. “We’ve made a lot of headway in many of the projects. This is the busiest we have ever been in the district on construction.”
The BOC presentation featured a slideshow with recent photographs of projects that are currently in the construction phase. Grady MS and Worthing HS (Phase 1) will be completed in the first quarter of 2016. Delmar Fieldhouse will be completed in the spring, in time to hold commencement ceremonies.
Projects scheduled to be completed in time to start the 2016-2017 school year include Condit ES, MCLIMS, North Houston Early College HS, South Early College HS, Mark White ES, Waltrip HS, and (non-bond) North Forest Early Childhood Center.
Several schools have target completion dates just over a year from now, including DeBakey HS in fourth quarter 2016 and Furr HS, Lee HS, Leland Prep, Sterling HS, and (non-bond) North Forest HS in first quarter 2017.
The BOC was briefed on challenges of some of the projects ranging from unexpected site conditions to lack of community consensus and scope-to-budget alignment.
The BOC is an independent citizens’ committee that is charged with monitoring all bond funded construction projects and helping stakeholders stay informed about construction projects in the district. It monitors performance and compliance and makes recommendations to maximize available resources to achieve construction goals.
For more information on the Bond Oversight Committee or any HISD building program, please visit www.BuildHISD.org