FACILITIES USE AND MANAGEMENT
This chapter reviews the facilities use and management functions within the North Forest Independent School District (NFISD) in the following sections:
- A. Facilities Planning and Construction Management
- B. Maintenance Operations
- C. Custodial Operations
- D. Energy Management
A. FACILITIES PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT
On March 1, 1998, NFISD issued $46.9 million in bonds. A portion of the bond funds, $5 million, was used to refund older outstanding bonds at an interest rate favorable to the district. The balance of the funds was used to build four new schools, Elmore Middle School, East Houston Intermediate School, Keahey Intermediate School and Shadydale Elementary School. NFISD participated in the Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) program. The IFA program was established by the Texas Legislature in 1997 to assist property-poor schools districts in building new facilities and renovating older facilities. IFA funds are administered through the TEA and provide assistance to school districts in making debt service payments on qualifying bonds and lease-purchase agreements. To qualify for the allotment, a district has to meet certain wealth per student requirements and pass a local bond issue to provide matching funds. Under the program, NFISD receives a payment each September over the life of the bonds for the IFA portion of the annual costs. In 1998, the district received $33.4 million in IFA funding.
On December 11, 2000, the district issued $42.4 million in bonds to renovate and improve existing schools and to refund $1.4 million of the 1998 bonds as part of a district debt restructuring initiative. An additional facilities allotment from the state will pay for $34 million of the bonds funded in the second program. The district spent $8.4 million through August 31, 2001 for flood repairs. Approximately 75 percent of these expenditures will be reimbursed by FEMA, less deductibles for such items as private insurance payments.
Although NFISD has begun its second major bond program in four years and has a $21 million program to repair flood damaged facilities, the district has no organized facility planning function. Instead, the responsibility is shared by the special assistant to the superintendent, the interim director of Maintenance and outside temporary specialists such as architects and project managers. The special assistant to the superintendent directs the flood repair program, along with his other duties. The interim director of Maintenance informally visits the work sites, but has no authority over the projects. In 1996, the district hired a construction project manager on a contract basis to oversee the 1998 bond program, but the manager left the district in 2000. The district has not hired another construction project manager. The board appointed a citizen's committee to recommend solutions for district facility issues, but did not adopt their recommendations that were made in February 2002.
NFISD lost all of its construction project records when the administration building was flooded and the turnover of staff in Finance and Maintenance positions has eliminated most institutional knowledge of the 1998 bond program. The district has been unable to furnish the review team with construction records such as contracts and change orders from the 1998 bond program or plans or contracts for the 2000 bond program.
Because of the lack of construction experience and the fragmented approach to district oversight of building projects, the construction of four schools using 1998 bond funds resulted in buildings that were poorly located on their sites, which created ongoing drainage problems. These new schools also had roof problems and exterior walls that were not finished properly. The construction project manager for these projects left after completion of the buildings, without ensuring that all final building issues had been addressed and no successor has been charged with resolving these concerns. The district is attempting to address these issues with the contractors responsible for the construction, but has not reached an agreement that sufficiently addresses the remaining problems.
This lack of experience, accountability and responsibility for facility planning, monitoring and control has resulted in increased costs to the district and poor performance by some contractors.
Effective school districts often rely on outside construction specialists for supervision of major construction projects including owner agents, architects, engineering firms, construction project managers and others. This is particularly true when the district does not have in-house expertise. Effective districts maintain district control of planning and construction so that the proper safeguards are created.
Effective school facility planning departments use a variety of processes to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of construction. These include daily or weekly observations of work-in-process, monthly reporting to the board, frequent inspection reports and material testing and water and air balance reviews.
Create and staff a facility planning and construction monitoring function in the district.
The district should create a facility planning and construction monitoring function based upon the level of construction planned during the next five years. This function should include a planning element, a monitoring element and an evaluation element. The function can be staffed by a mix of professionals who work full-time for the district as well as contracted staff. The key criteria is to identify sufficient in-house staff to maintain district control of the function. The district should fill all positions with experienced professionals possessing strong construction credentials. The interim director of Maintenance should not be part of this planning function as the role of that position is separate and distinct. The district should use a team approach to developing the function that includes users such as principals in the development process. This team should consider alternative staffing levels and skill sets to identify the best solution for NFISD.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The superintendent instructs the assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations to create a district planning function. October 2002 2. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations creates a working group of six to eight members to assist in the development of the function. November 2002 3. The team develops the purpose, responsibilities, performance measures, staffing levels and budgets required to effectively implement the function. December 2002 4. The proposed function is reviewed and approved by the superintendent and submitted to the board for approval. January 2003 5. The board approves the proposed function including staffing needs. January 2003 6. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations, working with the Human Resources Department, posts and advertises these positions. January 2003 7. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations interviews and recommends selection of new staff. February 2003 8. The superintendent and the board approve the hiring recommendations. February 2003 9. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations includes any additional cost items including new positions in the draft 2003-04 budget for consideration. June 2003
The total fiscal impact for this recommendation includes an annual cost of $138,968 with a one-time investment for equipment of $9,000. This estimate is based upon adding two professional positions and one paraprofessional position. The recommendation assumes that supplies and other expenses would be 5 percent of the annual salaries.
Professional positions: Annual salary based upon midpoint of the professional salary schedule (PG10B-1) $43,603 Variable benefits rate x 1.09 $47,527 Fixed benefits $3,017 Total annual salary and benefits $50,544 x 2 Fiscal impact for adding two positions $101,088 Paraprofessional position: Annual salary based upon midpoint of the paraprofessional salary schedule (PG3B) $25,913 Variable benefits rate x 1.09 $28,245 Fixed benefits $3,017 Fiscal impact for adding one paraprofessional position $31,262 Supplies and other expenses based upon 5 percent of salaries and benefits $6,618 Total fiscal impact of adding three positions $138,968
An estimated one-time investment of $9,000 for office furniture, equipment and computers is assumed with the addition of three positions. This recommendation also assumes that the recommendation would be implemented at mid-year in 2002-03 so that the cost for the first year would be one half of the annual cost plus the one-time expense.
Recommendation 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 Create and staff a facility planning and construction monitoring function in the district. ($69,484) ($138,968) ($138,968) ($138,968) ($138,968) One-time investment for office furniture, equipment and computers. ($9,000) $0 $0 $0 $0 Net Savings/Cost ($78,484) ($138,968) ($138,968) ($138,968) ($138,968)
NFISD does not have any elements of a facilities master plan, which severely limits the ability of the district to control, monitor or evaluate facilities or to plan effectively for the future. The facilities plan provided by the district consisted of a single table listing some, but not all, of the district's facilities, total square footage, staffing recommendations for custodians, utility costs, vandalism costs and general conditions. The plan was undated and was incorrect in many respects. For example, the plan did not include the last four schools built by the district. The review team could not determine when the plan was developed or by whom. The team was also unable to identify any current position in the district that was even partially responsible for facilities planning.
The district does not have needs assessment instruments such as five-year enrollment projections or evaluations of building conditions or facility capacity analysis. The district's declining enrollment has not been considered or analyzed as to cause or duration. There is no capital improvement plan, or identification of deferred maintenance issues. Alternative building programs were distributed to the public prior to the 1999 bond election, but all documentation is lacking. The facility inventory and classroom capacities used in this report were developed by the review team working with the interim director of Maintenance and included reviews of actual floor plans and blue prints.
The willingness of NFISD to begin a $83 million bond program without basic planning information exposes the district to many risks. Following the more than $20 million in damage that occurred after the June 2001 flood, there has been no effort to develop a coordinated approach to facilities based upon the needs of a district with declining enrollments. Without effective planning, the district could easily repeat the past mistakes of poor quality construction, such as were found in the schools built using the funds from the 1998 bond program. A lack of planning also continues to leave the district exposed to risks such as the lack of insurance on buildings. The special assistant to the superintendent estimates that this lack of planning has resulting in losses of $2.7 million to the district due to the lack of adequate insurance. While this issue has been addressed in that the district now has adequate flood insurance, there are other issues that have not. For example, the district's facilities are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements.
A master facilities plan is an essential step in the process of defining district facility needs and addressing them in a manner that provides the best results for the best possible price. An effective master plan builds on a school district's strategic plan. Districts use these plans to project enrollment needs by demographic area, educational and space requirements and facility repair and renovation needs. The plans also document the consideration of alternative programs with related costs and educational effects. Plans are updated frequently to evaluate the district's progress in achieving its facilities goals.
Fort Bend ISD uses a long range planning process that includes annual reviews of needs and an evaluation component. The flow chart in Exhibit 5-7 describes this district's process.
Exhibit 5-7Source: Fort Bend ISD Long Range Facilities Plan, August 2000.
Long Range Facilities Planning Process
Develop a long-range facilities master plan.
The plan should be used to direct remaining flood repairs, the use of bond funds and to determine the appropriate approaches to address the lingering construction problems remaining at the four new schools. NFISD's master facilities plan should include an evaluation of the condition of each facility, specific recommendations regarding each facility, identification of deferred maintenance, documented cost estimates and a timeline to address these recommendations. The plan should include strategies for consolidating facilities, where appropriate, due to declining student enrollment. The district should use a team of six to eight members including board members and community representatives as well as district staff to develop the actual draft plan. The district should use an outside expert to assist in the technical aspects of the plan such as identification and costing of deferred maintenance. Given the declining enrollment in the district, the team should carefully consider closing facilities and the impact on district operating costs. The district should include community representatives on the team. The plan should be updated on an annual basis to evaluate performance.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The superintendent instructs the assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations to develop a master facilities plan. November 2002 2. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations selects a school construction specialist to assist NFISD in the development of the plan. December 2002 3. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations creates a team of six to eight members to assist with developing the plan. December 2002 4. The team, working with the facility planning specialist, develops the updated plan. April 2003 5. The plan is reviewed and approved by the superintendent and submitted to the board for approval. May 2003 6. The board approves the plan. May 2003 7. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations includes the items identified for 2003-04 in the draft budget for consideration. June 2003 8. The superintendent initiates the annual update process. October 2003 and Ongoing
Development of this plan will require the use of an outside consultant who specializes in facility planning. The estimated cost of the consultant is $50,000 based upon the cost for similar projects in a similar sized district.
Recommendation 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 Develop a long-range facilities master plan. ($50,000) $0 $0 $0 $0
NFISD's two high school facilities are underutilized based on current enrollment, resulting in duplication of services and unnecessary costs for administrative, maintenance and custodial staff and utilities. Exhibit 5-8 below outlines the planned use of space in NFISD's secondary schools for fall 2002 using 2001-02 student enrollment information. As this exhibit shows, only 48 percent of the combined high school capacity is used.
Exhibit 5-8Source: NFISD floor plans and TEA, PEIMS, 2001-02.
NFISD Classroom Capacity
Analysis of Usage
Smiley High School 3,125 1,631 52% Forest Brook High School 2,750 1,206 44% Total 5,875 2,837 48%
In addition since 1996-97 NFISD has had a 13.8 percent decline in enrollment, an average of 3 percent per year. Exhibit 5-9 shows NFISD enrollment by grade over the past six years. The district has not conducted a formal demographic study nor does it project enrollments on a multiyear basis.
Exhibit 5-9Source: TEA, Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), 1996-97 to 2000-01 and PEIMS, 2001-02.
NFISD Enrollment by Grade
1996-97 through 2001-02
Grade 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 Percent Change
EE 36 31 26 18 29 24 (33%) PK 1,293 843 1,197 1,198 1,047 966 (25%) K 975 1,593 989 873 869 755 (23%) 1 1,132 1,021 1,169 994 965 903 (20%) 2 1,088 1,057 1,100 1,040 1,013 878 (19%) 3 1,007 1,064 1,012 947 1,039 967 (4%) 4 994 981 1,040 866 969 942 (5%) 5 907 1,007 961 900 925 936 3% 6 931 934 938 879 872 821 (12%) 7 969 961 861 899 881 784 (19%) 8 943 933 861 822 912 851 (10%) 9 1,374 1,144 1,279 1,209 1,077 1,121 (18%) 10 817 689 710 712 715 642 (21%) 11 681 731 655 619 604 555 (19%) 12 611 590 618 627 570 554 (9%) Total 13,758 13,579 13,416 12,603 12,487 11,699 (15%)
By not effectively using its current space, NFISD incurs unnecessary costs. By failing to project future student enrollment, the district will not be able to gauge facilities need, potentially incurring further unnecessary costs in the future.
Maintaining two high schools at less than 50 percent capacity is costing the district more than $748,000 per year that might be avoided if the Forest Brook and Smiley High Schools were combined (Exhibit 5-10).
Exhibit 5-10Source: NFISD, April 2002.
Estimated Annual Fixed Costs for Operating
Forest Brook High School
Cost Center Amount Principal $68,674 Assistant Principals (3) $156,259 Utilities $322,797 Custodial Staffing $200,783 Total $748,513
Understanding the serious financial strain that operating two high schools has put on the district and the fact that Forest Brook High School was temporarily relocated as a result of the flood, the board and administration began discussions about closing one of the high schools. The community outcry against such action, however, resulted in the topic being dropped.
Should enrollment in the district continue to decline, the district will receive fewer state dollars since the state's funding formulas are based upon attendance figures. Yet, costs to maintain those facilities will continue at the same level they are today or could increase as utility bills rise over time. This is a formula for financial difficulty. For the two schools to remain viable, costs will have to be reduced to match revenues.
Some districts faced with a similar dilemma have brought together individuals with strong feeling both for and against the issues and have asked them to help to hammer out solutions that are acceptable to all sides.
Establish a task force made up of a diverse group of school and community leaders to determine the best approach for controlling the cost of secondary education in the district.
It will not be enough for the task force to decide to keep both schools open. If that is the decision of the group, the group must examine five year enrollment trends and then explore ways to contain costs so that costs match revenues generated by the number of students in attendance. Some considerations might be to consolidate low enrollment classes, operate with some shared administrative staff, close off sections of the building to save on utility and custodial expenses, and the like. A full report should be brought from the taskforce to the board in time for these recommendations to be considered for implementation during the 2003-04 budget cycle.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The superintendent and the board meet to identify and appoint members of the task force. September 2002 2. The board provides the members of the task force with a charge and assists them to develop a timeline for the review and presentation of a full report to the board no later than March 2003. October 2002 3. The task force meets regularly to discuss the issues, analyze data and to talk with the administration and campus staff about the various options that might be pursued. November 2002 through February 2003 4. The superintendent and staff provide the task force data necessary for a full analysis of the costs and benefits of various options being explored by the task force. November 2002 through February 2003 5. The task force presents a final report with recommendations to the board that include cost saving opportunities. March 2003 6. The board acts upon the recommendations of the task force and incorporates these plans into the budget for 2003-04 April through August 2003
Should the taskforce recommend the closing of a high school, the annual estimated savings would be $748,513, as shown in Exhibit 5-10. Should the decision be to keep the two schools open, the task force should, at a minimum, seek to reduce overhead costs for the operation of the two high schools by $200,000 annually beginning in 2003-04.
Recommendation 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 Establish a task force made up of a diverse group of school and community leaders to determine the best approach for controlling the cost of secondary education in the district. $0 $200,000 $200,000 $200,000 $200,000
Vacant land and closed facilities, no longer needed by the district, represent ongoing maintenance costs to the district. The district holds 25 miscellaneous properties that are not intended for immediate school use, as well as a closed middle school and a damaged administration building. These properties are listed in Exhibit 5-11.The district is responsible for the maintenance of the properties including mowing of vacant land and minimal maintenance of the closed buildings.
Exhibit 5-11Source: NFISD interim director of Maintenance, April 2002.
NFISD Vacant Property
Location Size Valuation Remarks Northwood Middle School 18.59 acres $7,637,830 Building currently used for storage Administration Building 12,000 sq. ft. Unknown Destroyed by the flood Mesa Drive 31.67 acres Unknown South of administration building Mesa Drive 51.12 acres Unknown Currently used as a soccer field Mesa Drive 210.09 acres Unknown Adjacent to soccer field Tidwell Road 10 acres Unknown Vacant land located between Verde Forest II and Greens Bayou 21 vacant lots Various $244,070 Purchased at Sheriff's sale for delinquent taxes
Other districts such as Austin ISD have sold properties not designated for future district use. Since 1993, AISD has sold six properties with a total value of more than $2.8 million.
Identify surplus properties and develop a formal strategy to liquidate these properties.
NFISD should determine which properties it no longer needs and develop a plan to sell or donate the properties if necessary. Liquidation of unneeded properties will reduce operating costs in the district and may result in additional one-time revenues. The plan should include consideration of donation of properties, to community groups or the city of Houston if they are found to have little or no economic value.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The superintendent directs the assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations to identify properties not needed for future renovations or expansion. March 2003 2. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations identifies the property and develops a plan to sell these properties. April 2003 3. The superintendent submits the plan to the board for approval. June 2003 4. The board approves the plan and directs its implementation. July 2003 5. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations begins selling the properties. August 2003
This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.
The Maintenance Department has no formal "make or buy" process to determine whether and what projects should be completed by the maintenance staff or by outside contractors. The carpentry foreman uses an informal threshold of limiting his carpenters or employees to projects that require less than one work week by the entire carpentry staff.
The review team saw numerous examples of the NFISD carpenters' skills. Many of the desks, bookcases, file cabinets and credenzas in the district were built by the maintenance staff. The pieces were well-built and substantial. However, the foreman estimated a total cost of $700 per desk for labor and materials. A similar desk can be purchased from office suppliers for approximately half the cost. There is an additional cost to the district, in that time spent on special projects reduces the time available for normal projects.
Without a formal process to identify projects to be completed in-house and those to be performed by outside contractors, the district reduces the effectiveness and accountability of the Maintenance Department. The lack of formal definitions and standards for construction projects can result in increased costs to the district and may focus maintenance staff away from routine but necessary repairs.
Midland ISD conducted an analysis of the quality of its personnel, its ability to control services in-house and the cost effectiveness of operations to identify tasks to be performed by staff and those performed by outside contractors. The analysis significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of Midland ISD plan services.
Develop definitions and standards for construction projects.
The district should define the scope of projects to be performed by in-house staff and those that require outside assistance or purchasing. Consideration should be given to the skills of the present staff and the ability of the Maintenance Department to respond in a timely manner to the district work orders.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The director of Maintenance develops definitions and standards for projects to be performed by Maintenance staff and submits the draft to the assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations for approval. November 2002 2. The assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations approves the definitions and standards. December 2002 3. The director of Maintenance implements the definitions and standards and uses them to schedule Maintenance work. January 2003
This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.