With the election only two days away, we wanted to present you with additional information that was not included in the HMS Mailer (paid for with Taxpayer dollars) that the D181 administration sent to all D181 Postal Patrons last week. Our original plan was to go Fact by Fact through the district's mailer, but shortly after we began this exercise, we realized that we don't need to go beyond Fact 1 to establish that this Referendum has been a RUSH to the polls, done in complete disregard of the NEEDS at other schools and the Future Fiscal Health of the entire district.
We believe that after you have read the additional information we will provide below on Fact 1, you will agree that before the BOE asks us to approve a $65 million project ($90 million with bond interest) to build ONE school, it must hold additional public meetings to FINISH the Facilities Master Plan. The BOE must first address the NEEDS at ALL NINE of the district's schools, vet and discuss ALL of the Capital Projects identified (and excluded) in the Facilities Master Plan in the context of discussing the district's fiscal future, and actually VOTE TO APPROVE the Facilities Master Plan. It has not done so as of today's date. We believe you will agree with our conclusion that the ONLY responsible vote on March 15, 2016 will be a NO vote!
Fact 1 Presented in the District's HMS Mailer states: "Our Facilities Committee, comprised of parents, residents, staff, and Board members, has worked for more than two years to create a District-wide Facilities Master Plan supported by multiple data points and benchmarked against standards. This work has included special focus on HMS, which stands apart from the other D181 schools in regard to the level of its building challenges."
As a first step in looking at what Fact 1 really means, we spent hours researching the Facilities Master Plan by reviewing all available online documentation, and then listening to the FULL Board of Education's discussion (or lack thereof) of the plan. What we discovered was truly enlightening. Here are KEY ADDITIONAL FACTS you need to know about D181's Fact 1:
1. While it may be true that the Facilities Committee (which only has 2 board members on it -- Mridu Garg and Gary Clarin) has been in place for more than 2 years, it is NOT TRUE that they have been working for "more than two years" to create a District-wide Facilities Master Plan. A September 28, 2015 Memo prepared for the BOE by Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, Ken Surma, specifically states: "Over the past 12-16 months, the Facilities Committee has been working on gathering resources and
data to develop a Facilities Master Plan for District 181." If one is to believe Mr. Surma's BOE report, t
his means that as of the date of the HMS Mailer, the Facilities Committee had, at most, worked on the Plan for 17 to 21 months. (Source: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/files/A2SNYJ554364/$file/BOE%20Report_Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20(Draft)_9_28_15.pdf)
2. The DRAFT has NEVER been vetted or substantively discussed
by the FULL BOE, finalized or approved by the BOE.
- The Title of the Mr. Surma's Memo is "Facilities Master Plan (Draft)." This Memo and a 780 page long Draft Facilities Master Plan were included on the September 28, 2015 BOE Business Meeting Agenda. The Plan describes potential capital projects that may need to be completed at each of the districts schools over the next ten years. The Draft Facilities Plan can be accessed at: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/files/A2SNAB5719B5/$file/Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20-%209.27.2015%20-%20reduced%20size.pdf.
- The DRAFT Facilities Master Plan is on the 9/28/15 BOE Meeting Agenda under "Informational Items." This means that the plan was not included on the Agenda for action purposes. The last line of Mr. Surma's Memo confirms this fact.
- We listened to the Podcast of this meeting to see whether the seven BOE Members had any substantive discussion on the 780 page long DRAFT. They did NOT. The Podcast for this meeting can be accessed at: http://livestream.com/ccsd181/boe/videos/108652985. The "discussion" - if you want to even call it that -- on the 780 page long DRAFT Facilities Master Plan that covers all NINE schools, lasted a grand total of 3 minutes and 4 seconds between Time Counter 3:04:50 and 3:07:54. What is fascinating is that the "discussion" on this informational agenda item came after 10 pm and hours into a meeting at which the focus was on selecting the architecture firm to build a new HMS. Here is the link to the Agenda, so you can check it out for yourself: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=9ZXQ5B56F178.
- We encourage our readers to take the time to listen to the THREE minutes of discussion. Keep in mind that we have reviewed the AGENDAS for ALL Subsequent Board meetings through the March 14, 2016, and the DRAFT Facilities Master Plan has NOT been on any agendas since September 28, 2015. Please listen to these THREE minutes, because they are quite telling of the cavalier approach the D181 Administration has taken. We highlight the following Quotes from the three minutes:
- Dr. White starts off "joking" about the plan by saying, "I was hoping Ken would do a thousand slide presentation this evening, but I'm going to ask him not to do that."
- He follows up this "funny remark" with "One of our goals was to get you a DRAFT Facilities Master plan, you see that in the board packet. It's not intended to be anything more than a draft. At this point it has not been vetted by the Facilities Committee. The committee still needs to have that work done so that we can prioritize if you will and provide the board options as you consider that as part of future work. We met the target of at least getting a draft in your hands as a starting place."
- Dr. White then ends his "presentation" by stating "So, as you review it, let us know if you have questions or comments as to how we might be able to restructure it to meet your needs."
- What is clear is that this DRAFT was intended by the Administration to "check the box" so to speak and meet one of the board's goals. A draft, however, is useless, if it is not substantively reviewed in FULL, which it was not on September 28, 2015, or any date since then by either the BOE or the Facilities Committee. As Dr. White pointed out, even the Facilities Committee had not "vetted" the Draft before it was shown to the BOE! Yet despite these FACTS, between 9/28/15 and December 2015, the BOE was asked by the Administration to plow ahead with a decision to go to referendum to build a new HMS, only ONE of the NINE buildings whose needs are addressed in the DRAFT!
- Following Dr. White's "presentation," the only board member to speak on this Draft was the Board President, who asked Mr. Surma to explain what in the Draft addressed potential expenses that might need to be incurred on Hinsdale Middle School if the BOE decided not to go to referendum. He highlighted that the report included $50 million to build a new HMS and an additional $3 million to cover identified repairs that HMS would need if a new school wasn't built. What caught our attention was when he stated that he had "budgeted" or "put in" $50 million to build a new school. That amount is $15 million LESS than the $65 million referendum amount!
- That was the extent of the FULL BOE and Administrative discussion on the DRAFT Facilities Master Plan in the last 2 1/2 years (to use the date in the HMS Mailer)! And to repeat, the Plan has NOT BEEN VETTED, FINALIZED OR APPROVED by the FULL BOE!
3. As interested Taxpayers, who are being asked to approve NOT $50 million (as "budgeted" or "put in"), rather $65 million ($90 million with bond interest), to build ONE school, we decided to keep digging and see what this DRAFT actually provided for the other 8 schools. A "snapshot" of the amounts the DRAFT Plan included for all nine schools was included at the bottom of Mr. Surma's 9/28/15 Memo to the BOE. We have copied it for you below:
4. You will note several things from Mr. Surma's Snap Shot.
- First, he claims that the "Financial Impact" of all projects were completed in the Draft Facilities Master Plan would be $63,512,851.34.
- His line item for HMS is consistent with what he stated during the 9/28/15 board meeting -- he lists an amount of $53,543,384.24. The footnote referenced after this amount is included at the end of his memo and states: "1 This total includes $50,000,000 for the possible construction of a new or renovated Hinsdale Middle School along with the
expenditures associated with items identified in the Facility Condition Assessment Report and Life/Safety Survey. "
- So, according to Mr. Surma, the new HMS would cost $50 million.
- The other 8 schools' identified capital projects totaled nearly $10 million -- to be exact, $9,969,467.10.
5. Yet NONE of the capital projects identified in the Draft Plan for the other EIGHT schools were substantively discussed by the BOE before they decided to move forward with a $65 million school. Of course, this means that the Total Financial Expenditure listed in Mr. Surma's 9/28/15 Memo is no longer accurate. The total now stands at nearly $75 million (we have not included the +$3 million expenditures Mr. Surma indicated were included in the Draft for work to be done to HMS if there was no referendum).
6. In further reviewing the materials that the Facilities Committee reviewed the last time they EVER discussed the DRAFT Facilities Master Plan -- September 17, 2015 -- (Click to Open Committee Meeting Agenda)
-- we also found a document titled: Projects Eliminated from Facilities Master Plan
. It can be accessed at: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/files/A2DNC754A14E/$file/FMP%20-%20Projects%20Eliminated%20from%20Facilites%20Master%20Plan.pdf
- This document identifies nearly $33.3 million in capital projects for all nine schools that were ELIMINATED from the DRAFT Plan that the BOE was ultimately shown on September 28, 2015.
- Of the $33.3 million, $15 Million was included for Hinsdale Middle School's NEW BUILDING CONSTRUCTION, leaving $18.3 million in additional capital projects for the other 8 schools.
- We did not listen to the podcast of this meeting, because what was critical to us was that somehow before the BOE ever was shown the DRAFT Plan, the Facilities Committee reduced nearly $28.3 million in capital projects that had been identified for 8 schools, down to under $10 million WITHOUT the FULL BOE ever getting to participate in a substantive discussion on this "winnowing down."
- But of GREATER significance to the current $65 million HMS referendum we are being asked to approve, is the fact that someone -- Mr. Surma or the Facilities committee??? -- decided to reduce the amount to build a new HMS from $65 million to $50 million and only reflect $50 million in the DRAFT Facilities Master Plan.
So there you have it -- ADDITIONAL FACTS -- regarding the work of Dr. White, Mr. Surma, the Facilities Committee and BOE and the District-Wide Facilities Master Plan listed in Fact 1 of the HMS MAILER. What do these facts reveal? They reveal that the Plan is still just a draft. If one is to believe Dr. White, as of 9/28/15, this district wide plan had not been vetted by either the Facilities Committee or the BOE. Since that date, it hasn't been either. There is NO FINAL, BOARD APPROVED Facilities Master Plan. The BOE's last "look see" into the informational material that Dr. White and Mr. Surma presented them to review on 9/28/15 listed the amount budgeted (or to use Mr. Surma's corrected phrase -- "put in") for construction of a new HMS at $50 million, not the $65 million that the board approved in December 2015. Since deciding to build a new middle school, selecting an architect and allowing the price of the winning architect's proposal to swing wildly from $46 million to $73 million to $65 million all in the course of two weeks, Dr. White has NEVER asked the BOE to go back to the DRAFT Facilities Master Plan to see if they were on target. Nor have they discussed how or when they will finance the $10 million in projects for the other 8 schools. Nor have they discussed why additional $18.3 million in projects identified for the other 8 schools were eliminated from the Draft Facilities Master Plan.
Shouldn't each of the following steps have been taken BEFORE the Administration asked the BOE to approve going to referendum on HMS?
- Step 1 -- Discuss the substance of the DRAFT plan -- what is included for each school, what was eliminated for each school and why, what will the plan cost to implement and how will the projects be funded?
- Step 2 -- Have the BOE Vote to Approve a final Facilities Master Plan. (Just like D86 did as it final step before now beginning the phase of prioritizing the project in the plan BEFORE deciding when to go to referendum and for what amount.)
- Step 3 -- Prioritize the projects.
- Step 4 -- Decide the timeline for when each of the prioritized projects will be undertaken.
- Step 5 -- Decide how the projects would be funded and if necessary if, when and for what amount to go to referendum.
- Step 6 -- ESTABLISH a BUDGET in the Facilities Master Plan for each project -- including a new HMS -- that will cap the amount architects are allowed to use in developing their proposals for the project.
NONE of these steps were taken, and yet, in two days, we are being asked to approve a referendum to build a $65 million school, which was supposed to cost (at most) $50 million in the Draft Facilities Master Plan? We are being asked to approve a referendum for ONE school when the identified needs of the 8 other schools haven't been fully vetted by the BOE? Well, we are not going to condone the UNFINISHED WORK of Dr. White, Mr. Surma, the Facilities Committee or the FULL Board of Education. It is clear as day that they RUSHED the HMS referendum because they didn't want to put the question on the ballot during a national election -- they refused to slow the train down by a short 8 month period, enough time potentially to complete Steps 1 through 6 above, because they wanted to avoid the November election. They didn't want to risk putting their referendum question on a ballot that might also include a D86 referendum question. Well, in our opinion, that is simply inappropriate and reckless and irresponsible. The HMS MAILER does a great job obfuscating all of these undisclosed facts by listing 9 additional "facts." We are not going to take the time needed to dissect each of them. We started a list of additional information that is not included in them, but decided that undisclosed information surrounding Fact 1 is so damning that it is not necessary to go beyond it.
On March 15, 2016, we are going to VOTE NO on the HMS Referendum. We hope you will join us. It is time for all parties involved to FINISH what they started and FIRST finalize the DISTRICT-WIDE Facilities Master Plan. Only then can the BOE make any kind of fiscally responsible decisions that take into consideration the needs at ALL of our schools.