If the August 29, 2016 meeting is any indication, the Broward Bond Oversight Committee is getting more and more comfortable in its role of overseeing the implementation of the $800 million general obligation bond program approved by Broward voters to renovate and improve Broward’s public schools. The issues raised and questions asked by Committee members reflected a thorough and careful review of reports provided by District staff and by Florida TaxWatch.
The District’s facilities construction project report identified more than 700 construction projects, each with their own individual scope of work, budget, and construction schedule, at 118 Broward schools. Using a “traffic signal” with green, yellow, and red lights to indicate the status of each project, the District report identified the status of every project as “green,” suggesting that each project was on schedule and on budget, and that there were no pending issues of concern for any project.
Although the District was commended by Committee members for its efforts to increase transparency, several Committee members questioned the “green” status of every project, citing a very real public perception that the bond-funded construction projects are behind schedule and the costs are in excess of what was originally estimated. The District agreed to work with Florida TaxWatch to prepare a reporting mechanism to address the Committee members’ concerns. Now that professional services agreements are in place, vendors are being selected, and project scopes, budgets and timelines are established, the Committee made clear its expectation that these projects will be delivered on time and on budget.
The Committee recognized and acknowledged that the overall quality and content of the reports of music and arts projects had improved significantly; however, Committee members were quick to point out that the majority of music equipment replacement projects for the 2015-16 school year had not yet begun and pressed District for an explanation of the delays.
One program area in which the Committee was extremely complimentary of the District was technology. Most significant among the myriad technology improvements reported was the installation of almost 60,000 new laptop, desktop, & tablet computers. As a result, almost all of the schools are now in compliance with the District’s standard of 1 computer to 3.5 students. The District’s technology staff has been able to procure the necessary technology improvements at a savings of more than $5 million, moneys that can be reallocated to meet other critical needs.
With each quarterly meeting, the reporting expectations of the Bond Oversight Committee and District reports become more closely aligned, the information available to parents and taxpayers becomes more transparent, and the District becomes more accountable. Florida TaxWatch is honored to support this historic effort.