The board of trustees can’t reach a compromise following advisory committee recommendations.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
The board of trustees failed to decide on the allocation of a potential $450 million in bond funds for construction and maintenance across the district at a special retreat Jan. 7 at Killen Center.
The board will discuss the Capital Improvement Plan further and may call for an order on a bond election in May at the board committee meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 at Killen Center.
The board appointed a Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee during a special board meeting and Capital Improvement Program retreat June 29 and charged the citizens advisory committee with reviewing the board’s projects list and recommending changes.
Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, presented a revised CIP plan to the board at the retreat.
The revised presentation maintained the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations while restoring the $3 million removed from Palo Alto College’s manufacturing and public service center.
Snyder said the $3 million could be funded outside the bond allocation.
In the revised recommended bond projects, Northeast Lakeview College saw a $13 million reduction and Northwest Vista College saw a $12 million reduction.
Snyder said combining NLC’s center of excellence and science building reduces its fund allocation by $7 million and reducing the size of new construction saves $6 million.
John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management, said combining the center of excellence and science building reduces the economies of scale by requiring fewer stairs and elevators.
Strybos said cost reductions could come from building larger labs to accommodate more students.
NLC interim President Thomas Cleary said the recommendations would meet the current and growing needs for space at the college.
To accommodate the $12 million cut in the recommended allocation to Northwest Vista, Snyder said the new nanotechnology building the board proposed at their CIP retreat in June will be moved to the Westside Education and Training Center and the center of excellence will lose 12 science labs.
NVC President Ric Baser said the recommended plans accommodate his college’s need for larger science labs, which currently cannot hold more than 25 students, and the college will consider Westside Education and Training Center an overflow campus if necessary.
During the presentation, District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said he was concerned with the cuts to physical plants across the colleges.
Strybos said the cut in physical plant funding is acceptable because of the decrease in size of new construction.
“If the buildings get smaller, then we can get by with a smaller physical plant,” Strybos said.
Strybos said he is working with all of the colleges to ensure there is more than one looped source of power on campus, ensuring that loss of power will not occur should damage to a transformer happen.
District 9 trustee James Rindfuss said the citizens advisory committee was created to review and potentially approve the board’s recommendations.
Rindfuss took issue with the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations, saying he is worried the committee made these recommendations without access to the data and technical background the board had.
District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas rebutted Rindfuss’ statement and said Rindfuss must not have reviewed the committee members’ qualifications.
District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante said Strybos was present for the committee’s meetings and should have provided them the data; Strybos confirmed the committee had full access to all of the data the board based their recommendations on.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate said the board should focus on the issue at hand.
“This emotional and political aspect is not our responsibility,” Zarate said. “Our job is to make sure all of the colleges’ needs are met with the money we requested.”
The citizens advisory committee’s recommendations allocate a $12.5 million increase to St. Philip’s College from the board’s recommendations.
A total of $8 million was added to the $12 million the board recommended to rebuild the welding and auto collision building at SPC’s Southwest Campus.
Sprague questioned if this increase in funds was necessary.
Strybos said the fund allocated to new construction will prevent the need for renovation costs in the near future, and the $8 million will allow for a two-thirds increase in capacity at the welding and auto collision building.
Rindfuss questioned why a truck driving facility was necessary at Southwest Campus, considering trucks will be automated in the future.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said automated vehicles were not a concern in the near future, but the board would keep such recommendations in mind when moving forward.
After Snyder’s presentation, each board member gave an opinion on the current recommendations; District 1 trustee Joe Alderete Jr., District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante, District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz and District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said they feel confident in the revised recommendations.
Rindfuss expressed concern with the complete rework by the citizens advisory committee and the allocation of funds over the next five years.
Sprague said he is concerned with the cuts to Northeast Lakeview and Palo Alto, referring to the manufacturing center at PAC as “a jewel we need to fully fund;” Sprague said the extra $8 million the citizens advisory committee recommended for SPC’s welding center is not necessary and $17 million would be sufficient.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said he didn’t hear any real facts or figures from the college presidents, and he said he believed the presidents bought in to what was presented without clarification.
Zarate said he is concerned with the fiscal plan at this college and PAC and SPC and how the board will present this plan to the public.
“We need to strategize how we’re going to move this forward,” Zarate said. “To any normal citizen, this represents a tax increase, and we have to ensure they view it as fair and equal amongst the different areas of the district.”