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July 7, 2020
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Schools, facilities and bonds: Plans but no money

By: Lanny Lowery
March 8, 2019

Revelations at a special school board meeting held Tues., Feb. 26, suggested that remaining bond money is not enough to support outstanding projects.  Chief Financial Officer Robert Marical and Josh Savage, Director of Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations, presented a slide show that listed outstanding projects and their costs. 

Before they began, a Tech High parent and two Tech High students addressed the facilities spending topic.  Each spoke about the importance of athletics and the need to renovate the fields for Technology High at Tech Middle School, which THS will want to use.

Superintendent Tony Roehrick then announced, “The purpose of the meeting is to study the issue of facilities projects in place that total costs of more than we have resources.”  He went on to say, “We must prioritize the projects.”

The Theater Arts Gymnasium (TAG Building) project, discussed at length, clearly demonstrates a pattern of costs exceeding projections.  Once estimated at a little more than forty-eight million dollars, it appears that the final totals will come in above fifty-six million dollars.  

Trustee Chrissa Gillies pointed out that even those numbers are off because soft costs will exceed six million dollars.  Beyond that annual costs for gas, electricity, water and sewer and custodial supplies will total $145k.  Add to that the salary of a Media/Facilities Manager and another maintenance worker and the annual cost of running the TAG Building verges on $300,000.

Marical next reported that the Tech High conversion project had now doubled in cost from the original projection of around ten million dollars.  Total costs are now estimated at $19,966,729.  Other projected costs on projects at other schools included:  the multi-use room at Evergreen at $12.5 million, the multi-use room and office 

renovation at University Elementary at $12.1million, Tech Middle School Athletic Field at Mountain Shadows at $16.9 million and Rancho Cotate at $2.3 million for field and track renovation.

The presentation ended with a discussion of future projects.  This included work at Hahn and Monte Vista as well as upcoming technology expenditures for laptops, I Pads, and networks.  Concluding the presentation, a capping statement: “We knew we couldn’t do these projects without a third bond.”

As there seems to be no money to fund these projects and since the taxpayers of Cotati and Rohnert Park are on the hook for $250 million that is to be paid back over the next thirty years, the outlook for bond projects as well as for the district budget, that when last reported neared 1.6 million dollars, is bleak.

On March 7, in yet another meeting, Superintendent Roehrick will make recommendations to the budget committee, who will then bring them to the board about measures to balance the budget.  These recommendations will probably become actions items that are likely to come to a vote at the regular school board meeting March 12.