Fuzzy math

Many local school districts don't know what it would cost to improve their buildings
Alissa Widman Neese
May 5, 2013

The Center for Green Schools recently released a study that determined it would cost $542 billion to get the nation's school buildings up to par, as a great many districts have structures that are simply in disrepair.    

While the center's leaders are pushing for the first federal study of school buildings in nearly two decades — to determine what's needed to ensure education, safety and health standards are met —the Register reached out to local school districts on this front. 

The question: What would it cost to improve each district's buildings? 

The Center for Green Schools found that leaders at many districts in the U.S. are ignoring the problem because they don't understand the extent of it. 

Indeed, locally, it appears many school leaders don't know what it would take to fix their school facilities.

After reaching out to 15 district leaders this past month, the Register found many have only addressed costs to improve a few buildings, or they simply did not have any such data available. The districts that provided the best data were those already pursuing building projects with the Ohio School Facilities Commission. 

To read the full story, pick up Sunday's Register or subscribe to the ePaper here. 

Also, click on the PDF below to read the Register's exchange of emails with district officials on this topic.  

Comments

luvblues2

That's not fuzzy math, Alissa. It's more like maintain the best we can and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. For schools to be as Green as possible, they have to be new and updated as Windows updates every frikkin' few days. It's unrealistic in this economy.

Nice job on the article, though.

VOTENO

Vote NO on both Perkins school levies!

donutshopguy

If the operating levy passes in Perkins the superintendent and board will be able to make whatever choices they want on a building without public input.

With the latest maneuver of a millage switch the taxpaying public will have no vote on cost, style, structure or size.

Do not give up your check and balance on the school board and superintendent. A "no" vote on the operating levy will insure your continued ability to direct "our children, our school and our community."

Good 2 B Me

Dead on!!

coasterfan

Two comments for donutguy: the taxpayers get to vote on the issue, so public input is definitely allowed. And that's enough. If the levy passes, it makes sense for the local educational experts to make the decision as to how the money should be spent. If you don't think the people who are in charge are the right people to make the decisions about how the funding should be allocated, that's one thing. But to let people who have NO educational finance training make the decisions on how the money should be spent, is not the answer.

No one would think to go to a plumber for a question on brain surgery, or a brain surgeon for a question on plumbing. Just what is it that makes people who aren't in the field of education think that they are automatically experts on it, and would know more than people who have training in that field?

Good 2 B Me

Sorry that you seem to think that Donut is not too swift, I agree with him.

I will NOT vote for a levy that the BOE & Sup can spend freely. I cannot imagine that. There has to be structure to our money before we give it to them.

DGMutley

I agree with Donut.

samiam

If they have no idea what it would cost to improve the buildings, how can they say it would be cheaper to build new than to improve/repair existing buildings??? Looks like they've been pulling numbers out of the air again!

shucks

right!

underthebridge

Can someone sort through Perkins response?

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

When I contacted treasurer Lisa Crescimano, she directed me to the Perkins board of education website and told me to click on the links on the right side (the facilities commission reports) to obtain numbers.

Link here: http://www.perkinsschools.org/Bo...

However, since those numbers are outdated, I used the most recent facilities commission estimates, which is the document I posted with this story online. Lisa emailed me those numbers when I wrote about the district changing commission programs. The entire project to rebuild all district buildings will cost about $80 million, with a high school costing about $40-50 million and one large elementary school or two small elementary schools costing about $20-30 million total.

In summary, the commission's estimates did indicate it would be more cost-effective to rebuild than renovate. Although initial costs may be similar, newer buildings save money in the long run because they don't need to be constantly fixed.

I hope that helps.

Good 2 B Me

$80M? What about the $100M that they estimated not too long ago...

Lil DAB

This is why levies fail. Lack of transparency from the leaders in charge. Instead of being forthright with figures to the very people that are financing their pocketbooks and their lack of communicating a plan. You get sent to websites. Then speculation and chatter take place resulting in taxpayers, teachers and students getting in war of words with each other with only web "facts" to go on. Sure the administration throws out their obligatory pie chart. The BOE sits back collects their $80 a month and waits to see what happens. Put the levy on the next ballot, and it starts all over again.

The cost of the NEW schools are ONE thing. What gets dropped in the proverbial cracks is the COST TO MAINTAIN. Operating costs will be even higher because of (new) utility budgets (lighting, air conditioning, etc) Then guess what! Back to the taxpayers with an ADDITIONAL TAX LEVY on your PROPERTY or an EARNED INCOME TAX.

VOTE NO for ALL The reasons given by posters on this page!

kal-el

Just curious, samiam, donut, etc, what motivation do you think the Perkins Board has to improve the facilities? Anonymous commentors on here act like they will get some huge personal benefit. Have you considered that, perhaps, the children and community will benefit? Or are you too busy hating on school personnel you don't like?

Good 2 B Me

It has nothing to do with personal feeling toward any members of the board.

It is all about the fact that these people are taking money and using it wrong and not for what it was intended/taxed for.

If we give them a bunch more money, there is nothing stopping them from continuing to use the money for things other than what it was intended. I.E. The Football stadium.

They got it declared unsafe and then tore it down only to use money for the Schools to build a new one. Now they are saying that we are broke and have to cut back. Guess where that money should have been spent??

samiam

I don't hate school personnel. I don't like some of the decisions that the board and supt. have made. The voters have twice, not once, but twice, already voted NO on tax money to build new schools. But the board in their infinite wisdom (sarcasm intended) decided to thumb their noses at the voters and move inside millage from operations to a building fund. The unfortunate thing is that the supt. and the board aren't the ones that get fired. They make the decisions but their livelihood isn't affected by those decisions.

Good 2 B Me

Yup

eriemom

Unfortunate? Our rubber-stamping board agrees with super's recommendations, and its just unfortunate that people loose jobs? Unfortunate could describe dropping your ice cream on a hot summer's day. This is unethical. We have doctors on the board. Maybe, "first do no harm" should apply to their elected board positions as well.

Nemesis

@Kel-EL:"Just curious, samiam, donut, etc, what motivation do you think the Perkins Board has to improve the facilities? Anonymous commentors on here act like they will get some huge personal benefit."

The superintendent has a strong personal benefit - overseeing the construction of all new facilities is a very nice way to pad his resume, especially if his sights are set on running a district that's on a spending and building spree. His refusal to relocate to the district is a strong indicator that Perkins is just a stepping stone for him. As for the board, they have a strong need to feel their more expensive choice of hiring an out of town "rockstar" candidate rather than promoting from within was the right one - this need for validation biases them in favor of his recommendations.

Then, there's the edifice complex - the desire to establish a legacy by getting one's name engraved on the cornerstone of a significant public facility.

Even if Gunner and the BOE both fervently believed that new facilities would benefit the community, it's not necessarily their choice to make. You and they seem to have forgotten that they work for the voters and taxpayers, not the other way around. They specifically asked the voters, their bosses, to weigh in on new facilities, and their bosses said no. While it's true they were elected to make decisions, when the voters unambiguously say no to a proposal, that eliminates the board's discretion on the matter.

bobshumway92

VOTE NO!

Perkins2060

Vote NO on ALL Perkins levies!

Perkins Resident

The only levy I will be voting yes on is the police levy. I'm voting no on all the other ones.

For the Betterm...

The math to update existing buildings is fuzzy in most of Erie County school districts because it is CHEAPER to upgrade than to build new!!! Sandusky sold 3 school buildings for $5.00 and moved students which over
crowded the rest of the schools. This was an intentional move to, in the very near future, go to the Sandusky citizens to ask for money to build new. The voters said NO to build new in the Fall of 2005, but the board of education ignored the voters and began their strategy by closing schools.

donutshopguy

kal-el,

I am looking at a bigger picture.

With the present manipulation of funds the school board and superintendent will never have to receive approval from the voters for any building now or in the future.

Are you willing to hand over your rights to vote on school building issues ? Are you willing to give up those rights for the next generation and the next ?

I'm not. I cherish those rights and won't give them up without a fight.

This will be the first school levy I have ever voted against in my life. If this operating levy passes than you have given up those rights by the manipulation of millage by the school board and superintendent.

If the board and superintendent rescind the millage switch and allow the voting public decide on the school building than I will vote for the operating levy.

If you have any more question of me please ask.

DGMutley

Agree.

Nemesis

Hey Donutshopguy, you claim this will be the first levy on which you've ever voted no. It sort of begs the question, if you've blindly rubberstamped the BOE's spending decisions for so long, why do you now feel so impassioned about controlling them? Don't get me wrong, I agree 100% with your current position, but, given that, for the past 30 years, per pupil spending in almost all Ohio districts has grown at twice the rate of inflation, to have never voted against a single levy, you must have, until recently, been asleep at the wheel.

Is this just a case of "I would have gladly said yes, but a fella likes to be asked?" Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's a minor bit of clarification that might help convey your message.

donutshopguy

nemesis,

I have made a untruth statement. I voted against the last 100 million dollar "folly with the fountain fiasco" last year. This is the second levy I have voted "no" on.

I would vote for a new operating levy if strings weren't attached with the millage manipulation building sham. I've become a real stickler on voting rights and the deterioration of those rights.

Gardenman

As I have driven around Perkins Township I see a complete absence of any signs supporting the school levies. Maybe that is the game plan to keep it low key and hope the negatives stay home and the positives are the only ones who know school levies are on the ballot. My experience has been the diehard negatives always know when the levy is up and home or not will make sure they vote. So I guess we will see how this one goes on Tuesday evening. My guess both school levies will go down to defeat and the Perkins police levy will pass.

I have a brother in Pennsylvania and they do school funding differently. They elect a school board members and THEY set the budget and from that the mileage is calculated. No levies go before the Board with the exception of bond levies for new buildings etc. In his school district there has been a huge waste of operating funds. They closed one middle school due to low enrollment placed no security on it and windows etc were broken. They couple years later decided they needed the building and spent over $10 million renovating and repairing it. Citizens went spastic and at the next election voted out two Board members who had over 20 years on the Board and voted to waste the money on the middle school. Enough give the fear to the other 3 and they are playing real conservative now fearful they will be voted out.

Like they say elections do have consequences.

donutshopguy

In a letter to the editor Mr. Gasteier said the community is at a "crossroads".

I believe the whole country is at a crossroads. We are giving up our rights as citizens to bureaucrats. We have become lazy and have forgotten how many brave American have given up their lives to guarantee those rights. From the Revolutionary War to WWII we have struggled to hold those right in the highest regard.

These are our children, our school and our community. Stand up for those rights. Cherish them. Fight for them.

donutshopguy

It is the school board's responsibility to oversee the financial issues regarding the school. If they believe the schools need to be replace than it is their job to present the facts and let the voting public decide.

Previously this school board presented a new building program and the voting public rejected the proposal by 58%. Now, the school board manipulated millage to remove the publics vote on the new buildings.

As sad as I am to say but the community has to vote "no" on an operating levy to prevent this manipulation of our voting rights.

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