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California School Fiscal Services

Providing comprehensive business office and consulting services to K-12 traditional schools and charters



What you need to know about the $9-billion school bond on the ballot

Posted on October 14, 2016 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (1451)

The impact on K-12 school construction will be profound if this initiative passes...even more so on the business office.  Here's a nice summary of the ballot measure for the busy CBO.....

Happy Friday!


Liam Dillian

Los Angeles Times

The first statewide initiative Californians will see on their ballots next month is Proposition 51, which would authorize $9 billion in school construction spending statewide.


If Proposition 51 passes, what could the money be spent on?


The bond measure breaks down like this:


$3 billion in new construction for K-12 schools

$3 billion in repairs for K-12 schools

$2 billion for community college facilities

$500 million for K-12 vocational education facilities

$500 million for charter school facilities

Supporters of the measure say the money will upgrade school technology, science labs and libraries as well as retrofit buildings for earthquakes and remove asbestos and lead pipes. The money also could be used for bigger ticket items, including school sports stadiums.



What’s it going to cost us?


The bonds will likely cost the state’s day-to-day operating budget about $500 million a year for the next 35 years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.


Who is backing it?


A large coalition of business groups, unions, developers and politicians, including the California Chamber of Commerce, State Building and Construction Trades Council, California Building Industry Assn. and both the state Democratic and Republican parties.


Politicians in support include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.


Why do its proponents say we need it?


School building needs are staggering, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Schools across the state need to spend between $4 billion and $8 billion a year on building replacement and upgrades assuming each facility lasts between 25 and 50 years, the LAO estimated.


The money would replenish the near-empty state funding source for school facility construction and upgrades, which requires matching dollars from local districts for projects to get built.


“Education is the first rung on any ladder to success and we cannot allow our children to face the added obstacle of trying to learn in conditions that are not safe or up-to-date,” Villaraigosa said in a statement when endorsing Proposition 51 earlier this month.


Developers also argue that state funding is preferable to cities charging fees on new construction to build school facilities, a method they say drives up the cost of housing.


Who's against it?


Gov. Jerry Brown is the most prominent opponent, calling the measure “a blunderbuss effort” in a memorable statement last year.


Why do opponents say it’s a bad idea?


The measure locks in the state’s existing school-facilities funding system, which critics argue benefits large, affluent districts. The money is spent on a first-come, first-served basis, which prioritizes districts that put together applications the quickest, not the low-income neighborhoods that might need the money more, Brown’s director of finance, Michael Cohen, argued in a Sacramento Bee op-ed this month.


“The state’s school facilities program is fundamentally flawed,” Cohen wrote.


Didn’t I just vote on a school construction bond?


Probably so. Local K-12 and community college districts frequently put school construction bonds on the ballot, and they’re very popular with voters. About 80% of local school bond measures pass, and since 1998 voters across the state have approved about $85 billion in such measures, according to the LAO.


There has been no statewide school construction bond, however, since 2006.


What about the Proposition 51 campaign money?


The Yes on 51 campaign has raised $11.2 million with the largest contributions coming from developers, contractors, consultants, financial institutions and others who regularly promote school facility construction. Opponents haven’t raised any money.


What do the polls say?


There hasn’t been a lot of polling on Proposition 51. A Public Policy Institute of California poll last month had 47% of likely voters in favor, 43% against it and 10% unsure.



Bill would curtail no-bid aspect of lease-leaseback building

Posted on May 11, 2016 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (463)

This is one of those issues that will never go away and I think that it is likely that this provision of the law will change at some point. This is a something to keep a close eye on if you are in the midst of school construction projects or see them in your future. Sometimes, it’s best to just eliminate the controversy yourself and use the competitive bid process as it was intended. It's really the only way you can ensure that your district won't end up in the center of controversy like some others.


MAY 11, 2016

by Tom Chorneau, Cabinet Report

(Calif.) While the courts continue to debate the legality of a controversial no-bid construction agreement frequently used by schools, a legislative fix of the “lease-leaseback” arrangement appears to be on the way.


AB 2316 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, imposes a variety of new transparency conditions on the popular development agreement but perhaps most important, it would eliminate the ability for schools to use the approach without an open bidding process.


The bill, which has the support of school groups and much of the building industry, won passage from the Assembly Education Committee earlier this month and is pending on the floor of the lower house.


Meanwhile, conflicting court rulings have left the question of the legality of the lease-leaseback process very much in question. Just last week, the Second District Court of Appeal upheld its use by the Torrance School District in contrast to a ruling last summer by the Fifth District Court of Appeal that struck down a similar project undertaken by Fresno Unified.


So far, the California Supreme Court has declined to intervene, which suggests that justices believe it is something the Legislature must deal with.


At issue are long-standing state laws that allow a school district to lease a piece of property to a contractor for a minimum amount of money while a facility is being built or renovated. Under these terms, the contractor would then sublease the facility back to the district when the building is finished and the district begins making payments to cover the cost of the construction.


This system works outside the typical open bidding process most government agencies must follow. Supporters argue that because a contractor knows they would get both the planning and building stages of the project, they can offer better terms to the school.


But the system has also drawn a lot of criticism because of the closed-door nature of the agreements. O’Donnell’s bill would end that freedom and require districts to competitively bid any lease-leaseback project. That means among other things that:


Districts must issue a request for sealed bids from qualified contractors.

The request must identify all criteria the district will use to evaluate the proposals, with a clearly understood scoring system.

Districts must evaluate qualifications of the proposals based solely on the evaluation criteria and ranked based on the best value each would provide.

AB 2316 also protects contractors from being required to pay back the costs they put into existing facilities in the event a current contract is later found to be invalid.


The provisions of the bill would sunset in July, 2022 and would be repealed on Jan.1, 2023 unless later re-adopted.


A similar bill was sent to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, which he vetoed saying it might restrict a district’s ability to get the best building deal possible.


Complaints about the no-bid aspect of the lease-leaseback have been raised for years, also spawning many lawsuits – most of which were routinely denied. But the ruling in the Fresno case last summer threw the issue into the air.


A number of the challenges – including both Fresno and Torrance – were filed by attorney Kevin Carlin of San Diego, who has vowed to carry on the fight in the courts.


Carlin – along with the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – opposes the bill saying it doesn’t go far enough toward creating a level playing field because price alone isn’t the sole selection criteria. Critics also don’t like the bill’s disgorgement provision, which protects contractors on existing deals from having to pay back the entire cost of the project if the courts rule against them.

Bond Oversight Committee - Author: Matt Tinsley

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (1541)

One of the most striking things about the governance of American schools is how extremely local it is. [This emphasis on local control might have something to do with having been ruled from afar by a bunch of Germans* at one point.] San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties – where I live and work – are a particularly clear example of this. Both are suburban, densely populated, and overrun with school districts – more than 50, not including County Offices of Education, Joint Powers Authorities and charter schools functioning as their own LEAs. These large numbers of districts come with a whole host of pros and cons, including many opportunities for public involvement. I am in the very beginning stages of one such opportunity – I have joined my district’s Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.


Back in November, my two-school district passed a $60 million bond for school renovation. I find that a stunning number. I know that schools are big, that Silicon Valley is enjoying a construction boom, and that the Field Act and prevailing wage laws make schools construction far more expensive than commercial or residential building, but, even so, that is a lot of money. What makes it even more amazing to me is this is an amount wholly raised and spent by my local community – which comprises less than half of one of the smaller cities on the San Francisco peninsula. This combination of very large sums of money and very small organizations is one of the unavoidable outcomes of local control, and, with the Governor’s apparent reluctance to support a schools facilities bond, is going to affect more and more of us. Alternatively, our schools will fall down.


The bond oversight committee has yet to meet. We were appointed in June, just before the end of the fiscal year, and the first meeting is supposed to be this month. I have been sent the by-laws, including a list of duties. There are three – to inform the public of the district’s expenditures of bond proceeds, to review the expenditures to ensure they are only for approved uses, and to produce an annual report supporting these conclusions and detailing our activities. There is also a list of activities we are not supposed to engage in, basically any second guessing of the district leadership or Board’s decisions with respect to the construction projects. I have yet to meet the other members of the oversight committee but the parents in my community have been described as being “very involved” to me in the past. Threading the needle between “rubber stamp” and “interfering” with the kinds of “very involved” parents who are sufficiently motived to want to be on this committee seems like quite a challenge, which begs the question “why did I want to be involved?”. Aside from the entertainment value, the best answer I have is that its an opportunity to use my skills and knowledge to help educate my community’s children. Small size, local control and parent engagement – who else does that?


*the monarchs of the United Kingdom were the German House of Hanover from 1714 until 1901.


Williams Facilities Inspections - Author: Bob Whittenberg

Posted on August 4, 2014 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (1052)

When many of us hear “Williams Lawsuit”, we tend to think about teacher misassignments and the availability of text books and instructional materials in the classroom. As one who oversees the Maintenance & Operations department of a public high school district, I tend to think of the lawsuit’s effect on the condition of the schools’ facilities. Are they clean, safe and functional and do their conditions help to create the best environment for learning?

As detailed on the CDE website:

“The Eliezer Williams, et al., vs. State of California, et al. (Williams) case was filed as a class action in 2000 in San Francisco County Superior Court. The plaintiffs include nearly 100 San Francisco County students, who filed suit against the State of California and state education agencies, including the California Department of Education (CDE). The basis of the lawsuit was that the agencies failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers. As a result of the Williams case, the CDE has proposed changes to the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) template that all schools must update and publish annually. The proposed changes will help all schools report the overall condition of their facilities…”

That’s right, part of a school’s SARC report is calculated based on the overall condition of campus buildings and grounds. As a result, I have the opportunity each school year of visiting all of our campuses and evaluating each classroom, office space, restroom as well as the grounds. Having done these evaluations since 2007, I can say first hand that they have produced tremendous results throughout our district. Not only has each school’s SARC report improved, but even more importantly, the environment for our students and teachers has become much more conducive for learning and achieving.

What began as a matter of compliance to a legal mandate has now become a catalyst for great improvement that I actually look forward to doing each school year!