Monday, December 14, 2015

More about those Multipurpose Facilities

I had three takeaways from the Richardson ISD's 2016 Bond "listening tour."
  • Those multipurpose facilities (MPFs) seemed expensive. Comparisons with similar facilities in other school districts were lacking.
  • There wasn't enough in the bond to address anticipated enrollment growth over the next five years.
  • There appeared to be no way to avoid a tax rate increase, even if only maintenance and construction for enrollment growth were addressed.

The RISD school board addressed the first two of my takeaways at their December 7th meeting. Here, I want to cover the board's actions on those MPFs.

The RISD "School Times" newsletter has the story:
Trustees received comparison information about indoor facilities that have already been constructed in several other districts. The data includes what other districts paid in base cost, an inflation index and site/project development fees to arrive at an estimated cost for what a similarly-sized and equipped facility would cost RISD to build in 2017. Indoor facilities in other districts vary substantially in size, building materials, code requirements and features like field length, storage space, weight rooms, classrooms and office space. See MPF comparison information.

Staff and trustees discussed possible ways to reduce the cost of potential MPFs by reducing the scope of the proposed projects.

Source: RISD "School Times".
The RISD highlighted the MPF at Lancaster High School. Its cost, in 2017 dollars, is $16.25 million, compared to RISD's proposed $20.38 million. But Lancaster's MPF did not include demolition and reconstruction of existing site improvements, golf putting and hitting areas, or fine arts storage, and had only a partial masonry exterior, unlike the RISD requirements to meet Dallas and Richardson building codes.

So RISD's estimated construction cost for these MPFs does not seem unreasonably high for what's proposed. Even though the estimate might be accurate, the costs are still high. So it's good that "staff and trustees discussed possible ways to reduce the cost of potential MPFs." Board and staff should keep scrutinizing the scope of this project. Some members of the community will see this effort to move our students off parking lots and out of the Texas sun and rain as an unnecessary luxury. Don't hand them reasons to characterize these buildings as gold-plated as well.

I'm confident that by the time the school board signs off on any bond package, these MPFs, if they are still in there, will be scoped and priced appropriately. And they should still be on the ballot. Yes or no, let the voters decide.