Thursday, March 27, 2008

Beware the Round Numbers

After reviewing my monthly bank statement I made a startling discovery. Not one singular purchase came out to a round figure. Plenty of charges like $21.37 or $178.84, but not a single payment for a even number like $350.

Perhaps the architecture, bond financing and construction industries operate under a different reality from the rest of us. It could be that adding a new 8-lane track at Mead Middle School will cost $750,000 on the dot as suggested on the USD 259 website. Maybe adding a new library and converting the old library to a classroom at Emerson Elementary is going to cost taxpayers precisely $900,000 as claimed by the USD259 Public Relations department.

Another possibility exists....all the numbers proposed as part of the 2008 Bond Issue are, at best, simple guesses as to the costs associated with the projects. I'll use the lovely Bond Issue Fact Booklet for some analysis.

Reviewing the cost for each school there are plenty of nice round numbers. Adding up the total cost it looks like, yep, the costs for all the projects adds up to $350 million. That factors in a rather odd final number $2,846,000 for "land acquisition/inflation". That final number supposes that the costs for the new buildings didn't include the cost for property. Even without any additional land expenses, it would appear that a $350 million dollar project, with construction spread out over at least 5 years, would only plan on 0.08% for inflation.

Based on the breakdown of expenses provided by the district, it also appears that there are no costs, expenses or fees associated with the issuance of the bonds themselves. The Board of Education resolution contemplated such fees, but the USD 259 PR department doesn't seem to have included them in any of their slick literature.

The good folks at Schaefer, Johnson, Cox, Frey Architecture who put this plan together (more on that next week) along with the District leadership, owe the voters an actual accounting of how our tax dollars will be spent, not ball park estimates that have no grounding in reality.

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