Oct 30 2016

Opinion: Reasons to Support School Bond Measure H1 Point by Point

A Response to Attacks on Measure H1 – 

Measure H1, if approved by voters, will provide funds for needed improvements in our school facilities.  Anyone who has visited Piedmont High School recently is aware of the need.  In recent editions of the Piedmont Post, various writers have raised questions about Measure H1.  I’d like to address the matters raised.

First, there are complaints that Measure H1 does not provide sufficient specificity about the specific projects that will be funded.  In fact, Measure H1 is quite specific, starting with “Construction of a new Piedmont High School building, focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (“STEAM”) with size, scope and location to be determined following additional public input,” and going on to list expenditures all of which focus on school facilities.  See page A-3, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-vdk-LUzFEkMFlKS1RpeGNFOGc/view.  Further details are found in the Facilities Steering Committee Recommendation, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-vdk-LUzFEkSXg2cDVfWTg0dTA/view.

Second, one writer contends that the District has provided “no cost estimates.”  Not true.  Following the year-long Facilities Master Planning process, a conceptual Master Plan was prepared, and a cost estimate to accomplish what is in that Master Plan is posted here, http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/facilities/pusd-facilities-master-planning/.  Because the estimated cost to accomplish everything in the Master Plan is more than the District can afford, the District convened a Facilities Steering Committee, including community experts, to review the Master Plan, consider conceptual designs and priorities, and make recommendations to the Board.  The Committee’s recommendation led to Measure H1’s priority list and the desire for community input on how best to meet our priority needs within budget.

Third, a writer suggests the District should have a specific design for voters to review, asserting: “Make the supporters come back with a specific plan and viable cost estimates.  The rebuild of Havens Elementary School worked out just fine and within budget.”  In fact, what happened with Havens is what would happen here if H1 is approved.  Just like with the Seismic Bond program, the District has no money to pay for even conceptual design drawings unless and until a bond measure is approved and bonds sold.  Even more to the point, the history of the Havens rebuild is as follows–the voters approved the Seismic Bond, community input was sought, community member Mark Becker stepped forward with a great design, and community member Andy Ball agreed to a maximum guaranteed price that allowed the Board to go forward knowing that sufficient funds would exist for all three elementary schools.  It is exactly that kind of community engagement the Board hopes to see.  We have a lot of smart, creative and civic-minded people in Piedmont, and we want their participation in developing the facilities to educate our children for the coming decades.

Fourth, FIDES (whoever they are) claims that teachers, students and parents had limited opportunities for input into classroom and facility needs.  Not so.  Rather, teachers were deeply engaged in the process, see Appendix C of the Educational Specifications Report,http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2.1-Piedmont-Ed-Specs_FINAL-2016.02.10..pdf .  The District held eight meetings for parents, students, and the public to provide input, held at each school site, plus two community engagement meetings.  In addition, a Board workshop and multiple Board meetings sought input on facility plans.  See page 25 of http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/15-16/FacilitiesMasterPlanPres2015.10.28%20PUSD_Board.pdf In short, there were numerous opportunities to provide public comment.

Fifth, FIDES asserts that the “full master plan” is not “cost effective,” based upon on a comparison to construction of unknown facilities in unknown other states.  This makes no sense.  Detailed design and competitive construction bids will ensure that the District obtains needed facilities with proper quality at the market price.  The claim that Measure H1 creates “wasted spending” is incorrect.  FIDES asserts that Alan Harvey Theater (AHT) was “made compliant,” but is “slated for demolition in the published plan.”  AHT was not “made compliant,” but rather had its seats, stage floor and some equipment improved with donated funds.  If AHT is demolished (as yet unknown), the seats and equipment can be re-used.  The FIDES assertion that $3 million in “furniture, fixtures and equipment purchased under recent renovations” will be replaced is dubious.  Very little of Piedmont High School (PHS) was renovated under the Seismic Bond program, and PHS will be the focus of work under Measure H1 if it passes.  Some Internet cabling may be replaced, but routers, servers, etc. can be re-used until obsolete.

Finally, FIDES complains about a lack of “clarity,” asserting that the published plan is “no longer current.”  In fact, the published conceptual plan remains exactly that, one conceptual plan.  Additional concepts are discussed in the Facilities Steering Committee’s report, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-vdk-LUzFEkSXg2cDVfWTg0dTA/view.  Further concepts almost certainly will be proposed in the community engagement that would follow a community vote in favor of Measure H1.  This should be celebrated, not feared.  When this community works together to achieve a goal, it can achieve great things.  There was angst regarding Havens Elementary School—whether to renovate or replace, what would a replacement look like, and what would it cost.  After a lot of discussion and community involvement, we have a beautiful new Havens Elementary School and beautifully renovated Wildwood and Beach Elementary Schools.

I encourage everyone to vote in favor of Measure H1.

Rick Raushenbush, Member of Piedmont School Board

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.  PCA does not support or oppose ballot measures.

5 Responses to “Opinion: Reasons to Support School Bond Measure H1 Point by Point”

  1. Measure H1 has become a pretty contentious issue with differing views of the”facts”. Mr. Rauschenbush has well presented the PUSD’s views. However, what is not being said is that the apparent building deficiencies are not fatal to the continued use of the buildings, but largely due to inadequate building maintenance. When your house has a leaking roof or failed furnace, you would not demolish your house and build another. The existing relatively modern school buildings could outlast most of us if the buildings were well maintained. The district has chosen to place its resources into high-priced management staff rather than roofs and needed repairs. Any actual needed classroom space could be more efficiently provided by adding a floor to an existing building or building over vacant space such as a parking lot.

  2. Hi Michael: While maintenance is incredibly important (recognized in the District’s funding of long term maintenance even during hard budget times), that is not really the issue here. Many systems, such as HVAC, have simply reached the end of their useful lives in PHS building.
    This is more akin to your home water heater or air conditioner finally needing replacement. Further, the vast majority of the work will be renovation of existing buildings (just as it was in the Seismic Bond program).

    Moreover, as you point out, more classroom space is needed. In fact, the District considered whether additional classroom space could be obtained by adding a second floor to the science building, and the answer was that the existing structure could not support a second story. So, to build a multi-story building where an existing building is now will require demolishing the existing building. That, in turn, leads to the question where students will go during construction. As for building in a vacant space, one option that will be discussed (and is in the Steering Committee report) is construction on the parking lot behind the gym. The obvious tradeoff is that there is less space there. The community will have a chance to weigh in on the best designs to meet the identified needs.

  3. First: Hanging hopes on finding another Becker / Ball duo willing to take on the PHS projects in a manner similar to the Havens project is just that, HOPE!
    Next: In my view, the District needs to come up with a very specific priority list of projects and then bring them to the public / taxpayers separately. Don’t just say “we need them all” and then start paying and paying and paying. Don’t just bury us in more and more debt! Just because you can legally impose the max doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to do!

  4. In regard to Mr. Raushenbush’s response, I don’t see how the school board can conclude that a second story cannot be added without having been provided with a full structural analysis of the existing building(s). I suspect that the full analysis has not been done. A second story can usually be added with the reinforcing of the foundation. The benefit of adding a second story, or enlarging an existing building in some other way, is that site improvements are already in place, and generally it’s much less expensive. Regrettably I have concluded that the less expensive options are not being seriously considered because that is not part of the grandiose plans. Additionally, has anyone looked at a horizontal addition or a basement addition?
    While the description of the HVAC or other systems being worn out beyond repair is valid, the replacement of such systems is not in the $66 million range, but rather in the hundreds of thousands.
    I am sure many have wondered why the PUSD always use the same architectural firm for its building plans. This is the firm that wanted to spend $15 million to revamp the Alan Harvey Theater and in doing so, significantly reduce its seating capacity. As I said earlier most would not consider tearing down their house and replacing it because the roof leaks or it needs a new furnace, but that seems to be the kind of thinking that is behind Measure H1. If the PUSD board was considering the costs to the taxpayers, their plans should not include the demolition of any structurally sound building.

  5. The financial burden of expanding facilities should be carried by those who build second units or condominiums in Piedmont, as they are the free riders who later receive the full benefit of our limited resources. Specificity is lacking in measure H1.

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