Trustees to discuss officially calling for May bond election at Jan. 17 meeting in Killen.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
The board of trustees in a committee meeting Jan. 10 reviewed a revised capital improvement plan that recommended deferring $8 million slated to build a new truck-driving facility at St. Philip’s College’s Southwest Campus.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon asked if the recommended cut in funds would negatively impact the truck-driving program and asked if capacity for the program could be increased with the current third-party vendor.
John W. Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management, said the program would not be negatively impacted based on his discussion with the college presidents and said a new vendor may be found, as several are interested, and the board could submit a request to increase capacity when renewing the current contract.
Strybos said this cost would be passed on to students, assuring the board it would not be a direct cost to the district.
District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante asked the board how the public would perceive the $8 million cut at Southwest Campus.
Strybos said the board needs to develop a cohesive message to avoid public backlash or disapproval.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate reminded the board that this is merely a planning stage and no actual money is being taken or reallocated. He said the board can discuss whether the public’s bond requests are being met after the bond issue is passed.
Bustamante argued the board does need to worry about public perception, otherwise the bond issue may be voted down, saying she has received many questions from concerned citizens she was not able to answer conclusively.
Bustamante said she needs to feel positive with the board’s bond recommendations before moving it forward to the public.
Zarate recommended the board defer the $8 million, meaning the board could address the project later with money left over from the bond issue after all projects have been completed.
Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, told Zarate a list of projects to be deferred can be created as the CIP is put into place. This would be a list of projects that cannot be completed as scheduled because of cost increases, but projects themselves cannot be changed once the public votes.
Zarate asked if the public would have access to the list of projects on the CIP with the $450 million the board requested.
Alderete asked if the proposed projects would be listed with the corresponding costs or if financial information would be bundled by campus.
Snyder said the public will have a list of projects with the cost bundled by campus at minimum.
The revised CIP recommended St. Philip’s continue to use third-party vendors to operate the truck-driving program, but the board suggested St. Philip’s look into expanding the program by reviewing contracts with a third-party vendor or entering a contract with a new vendor.
The board of trustees approved the contract with The SAGE Corporation to provide “Professional Truck Drivers Training and Instructional Services Program” for and annual fee of $855,025 May 17, 2016.
The $8 million cut allowed the board to recommend the restoration of $3 million to Palo Alto College’s proposed manufacturing and public service center, which the Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee recommended be cut.
The board appointed the citizens advisory committee during a special board meeting and Capital Improvement Program retreat June 29 and charged the committee with reviewing the board’s projects list and recommending changes.
The board’s recommended cut would accommodate adding $2 million to St. Philip’s College’s new culinary arts facility, making the total amount allocated to the facility $30 million.
District 9 trustee Jim Rindfuss said he is uncomfortable with the lack of data explaining the recommended projects, including class size needs, the projected growth for different campuses and how each project would accommodate these needs.
Snyder said the data was presented to the board, but the prolonged nature of the CIP discussions had distanced Rindfuss from the information.
“I think that because our storytelling during this CIP process has gone on for really about three years, we do have various times where we have brought elements of that,” Snyder said. “But to your point, when we come back with a simple ‘here’s where we are now and here’s the next step,’ we’re losing a little visibility to some of that data we’ve given you before. We’ve done full demographic studies. We’ve had two different November retreats covering that and delivered all those books.”
Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, asked the staff to condense the information Rindfuss asked for and to present the data at the Jan. 17 regular board meeting.
The board’s revised CIP leaves $3 million unallocated, which the board will need to organize.
Bustamante said she would prefer the Westside Education and Training Center, which the board proposed be built in 2017, be placed on the same construction timeline as the Southside Education and Training Center, which the board proposed be built in 2021.
Bustamante said she fears the funds will run out before constructing the Southside Education and Training Center, and she does not want to see the Southside neglected further.
McClendon suggested the $3 million be set aside as contingency funds, but Snyder informed him that the public is not comfortable with “bucket funds” and that contingency funds are incorporated into all of the numbers.
District 1 trustee Joe Alderete, District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas and Bustamante agreed $2 million, of the unallocated $3 million, go toward increasing the size of Palo Alto College’s welcome center.
District 6 trustee Gene Sprague suggested the remaining $1 million be allocated to increasing the size of this college’s physical plant, which underwent a recommended cut during the citizens advisory committee’s review.
Katz suggested any extra money from any under-budget projects or incurred interest go into a “pot” for construction at Northeast Lakeview College.
Alderete asked if the board could commit a future board of trustees to determining the allocation of any remaining funds, and Katz said any board in place after all projects are completed will be charged with determining how the remaining bond money will be spent.
The board did not discuss the date of a public vote, leaving the discussion for the Jan. 17 board meeting.