Edinburg school officials say that applying never before used building procedures in lieu of a $112 million bond passed in May has created a model of transparency in the District.
School Board members, administrators, and citizen's groups actively following the bond apparently all agree that the selection of a key construction management firm, the injection of Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) money from the state, and the involvement of all stakeholders will eventually save taxpayer money in the end.
"There is an old saying that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it," said ECISD superintendent Gilbert Garza. "The cost-saving measures being used today to plan for the building of new schools in the ECISD will not only benefit our children but will benefit the taxpayers."
ECISD says it is doing everything possible to build schools as" cost-effective as possible." Edinburg taxpayers will bear 48.5 percent of the tax repayment of the near $112 million in school bonds approved by voters, according to the school district.
The fact that the District was approved for IFA funds will greatly reduce the tax burden of local taxpayers and add to the cost-savings to build new schools under the bond issue, said Garza.
With construction management firm Broaddus and Associates, the ECISD School Board, and the citizen's Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) the District has been able to select building procedures never before seen in school building programs, according to Garza.
"We are all doing everything possible to build the new schools we need, and to build them as cost-effectively as possible," he said. "The school board and the BOC have made it clear that the companies charged with building the new schools will be held accountable to building them to a high standard with the stigma of a high price tag."
Construction could begin on facilities by May or June of this year, and school openings a year after that, according to Broaddus. School officials completed what was to be the final hurdle on the way to construction after authorizing the contractors for renovation and addition to Brewster on Feb. 10.
Including the Brewster renovations, the original bond called for the construction of four new elementary schools, two new middle schools, converting Harwell Middle School to a fourth high school, and adding three multi-purpose fine arts centers at each existing high school.
The BOC, administration, and boardmembers say they have all been involved in making the decisions and interviewing prospective architectural engineers and contractors.
"The most important thing to establish is that we have developed a process that is honest, very transparent, and one that all of the stakeholders have been completely engaged in," said Dr. Francisco Guajardo, co-chair of the citizens Bond Oversight Committee. "The Bond Oversight Committee feels very comfortable that we followed a very honest and open process and made decisions in a consensus way (and) everybody felt good about who we decided would be the best for the job."
Stakeholders had previously agreed that best method of contract delivery for ECISD was to utilize a Construction-Manager-at- Risk, which essentially puts the responsibility of keeping costs within the District budget on the contractor. Management firm Broaddus will oversee the process.
"Everybody seems to be engaged, the community is engaged, we had a lot of support from the Boardmembers especially Facilities committee members. It has been a good process," said Gilbert Gallegos, senior vice president of Broaddus and Associates.
"The administration has been very supportive, they react to any situation we might want in terms of setting up meetings regarding design, selection committee meetings, everybody seems to be engaged," Gallegos said. "They're all volunteers but I think everyone has a special interest in making sure everything is done correctly. We commend them for being able to devote a lot of their time to making sure everything is done right."
School Board officials say they feel comfortable with the transparency for taxpayers as explained by the BOC, which is the Board's link to the community.
"If they feel comfortable with the transparency that the Board is doing, then I think we are doing a good job. If we're not they will probably be the first ones to tell us," said boardmember Robert Pena Jr. "As we near the implementation of construction then it's going to get busier for us.
"As we start to spend that money, then the people are really going to be interested on how we spend that money," Pena said. "The Bond Oversight Committee is really our link to the community."