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State to Crack Down on Wasteful School Construction Spending

April 27, 2016 - 3:00pm

A newly-signed law aims to curtail wasteful public school construction spending in the Sunshine State, and it could have a big impact on schools statewide.

When House education budget chair Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, found out Florida schools were overspending on construction costs, he vowed to do something about it.

School districts have always had limits from the state on how much they could spend to build new infrastructure, but there were no caps on local spending for school construction projects. The current caps were established 10 years ago and were set to around $22,000 per student for elementary schools, $23,000 per student for a middle school, and around $30,000 for a high school.

Bolstered by a report which found Florida’s 67 school districts have spent more than $1.2 billion more than they should have over an eight-year period from 2006 to 2014, Fresen sponsored legislation to cut back on construction spending. 

Erik Fresen
Erik Fresen

Some of the findings in the study showed districts spending well beyond the proposed caps.

In defense of the bill, Fresen said Florida’s schools have an unfortunate pattern of overspending on construction projects, much to the detriment of taxpayers who largely fund the projects. Districts also receive some local money through local sales taxes. 

Fresen pushed for new limits since the previous limits were established after the 2005 hurricane season when construction costs were largely inflated, making them unrealistic to maintain.

To crack down on wasteful spending, Fresen spearheaded legislation to curb construction spending from school districts. Fresen and school superintendents went head-to-head over assertions that school districts incorrectly assessed capital outlay needs.

Districts disagreed with Fresen’s assertions that school districts were spending significantly more than the spending caps.

Fresen told the Florida Association of District Superintendents that around 30 percent of reported school construction projects were built at a higher construction cost than the statutory limit, calling the overages of construction costs “egregious” and saying they must be reeled in. 

In a letter to Dr. Barbara Jenkins, President of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Fresen vowed to make sure facility costs and caps were not merely suggestions, but were “enforceable and adhered to.”

Now, districts really will have to adhere to the strict spending caps, which will have stark implications for future construction projects. That’s because the new spending caps will apply to all revenue, including local taxes. But the entire outlook isn’t totally gloomy: districts may be able to obtain exceptions with the state if they encounter unexpected costs during construction projects. 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

Comments

Nothing like less gov't...eh? classic.

Unfortunately the long view is never achieved when it comes to public school expansion. Mind you MDPS, just received $1.4 billion in school bond sales from the ballot initiative in 2014. The idea is to consider is to reduced the amount of County School District administrate via a www.governingschool.com This new school model is vital so parent can save budget surpluses through parent guardians of individual schools. This is especially urgent in the larger school district like Miami-Dade County where a half a million new Cuban exiles are about to arrive for the next Ten Years without available classrooms. Perfect example of misspending construction money is the $4 million renovation of the overcrowded dilapidated 53 year old KB K8 Center instead of razing it to replace with a larger school above sea level as per Post Katrina FEMA regulations for public buildings. The KB K8 school first erected in 1953. Built for 981 student were 1400 students presently attend. Not a single station was increased for those millions. Neither was any money spent on a new drainage system to mitigate flooding. DoGooogleit see KBK8 flooding on YouTube for yourself. These negotiations were stipulated in a ILA between the two governments in the Expansion of the MAST Academy for Key Biscayne. Rep. Erik Fresen who is well adverse in Charter Development , was well aware of this situation as the conversion -to charter (1002.33 (3b) initiative in Florida history was commence over it. This election initiative occurred a year before the renovation was to commence. I find his effort at accountability a bit disingenuous he does not support the amendment of the Florida Empowerment Law.

Unfortunately, it becomes quite the challenge to find sense anywhere in Tallahassee. Most of those in offices higher than a clerk often overspend, and create more waste than they could accuse anyone else of doing. Florida's D.O.T. is a superb example of wasteful spending both with their placements of certain construction contracts and with their own personnel who allege to work on cleaning/maintaining public roads, highways, and buildings. They all TALK a great game but let's see them live their game! GO TRUMP!

It's about time that sensible voices prevailed.... This "student bubble" ( like the "housing bubble" before it) is a "CYCLE" and the result will ultimately be 'empty school building real estate', This has happened ever since the end of World War II and repeats itself in every "new place to live" location across this State and this Country. I always used to thing that Florida was smarter than everywhere else with their "Temporary classrooms" on school grounds of all "currently popular" locations across the State. But NO MORE: the political thinking is "We're getting "windfall tax money",..so bring in so-called experts, build new schools (and Govt buildings), buy every government employee a new pickup truck...SPEND THAT MONEY WHILE WE CAN !" (I haven't even mention "corruption", have I ?!? But it goes 'hand-in-hand' with this "political atmosphere"..). You can count on it !

Takes intelligent, trained, experienced contracting personnel to award and administer construction contracts with appropriate competitive environment, contract type, and terms and conditions fully considered. Takes knowledgeable, experienced contracts attorneys to litigate overruns. It's easy to "investigate" and cast aspersions in today's political world. It is not easy to provide solutions - and implement them.

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