The board of trustees continued to debate bond projects up until motioning for an election at Jan. 17 meeting.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
At its Jan. 17 meeting, the board of trustees approved the recently revised capital improvement plan and placing the bond election on the Bexar County election slate in May.
According to an email from Michelle Perales, deputy to the chancellor, the board approved the revised CIP bond issue 8-1 and approved, 8-1, holding the bond election in May.
District 9 trustee Jim Rindfuss was the only board member to vote against the revised bond issue and holding the election in May.
The revised bond issue resembles the recommendations made by the Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee in the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.
The citizens advisory committee was charged with reviewing the recommendations made by the board at a June 29 CIP special retreat.
The board’s revisions to the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations include moving the construction of St. Philip’s Bowden Building in 2021, allowing the board to recommend moving the construction of the Southside Education and Training Center to 2017, and expediting the purchase of land along U.S. 281 near Stone Oak to 2017.
Student trustee Emmanuel Nyong, a nonvoting board member, asked why the board recommended construction on Bowden begin in 2021, saying it must be important if the citizens advisory committee recommended the building be constructed in 2017.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon questioned why Bowden Building should be rebuilt in five years, considering the mold and falling ceiling tiles in the building.
Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the mold issues in Bowden Building are being worked on now.
McClendon questioned why the district would spend money to remediate the mold in Bowden when they plan to tear it down in five years, and Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the district must remove the mold from the building because people are working there now.
McClendon asked the board if the classes held in Bowden could be moved to different buildings on campus, and Rindfuss said classes should be moved because St. Philip’s does not utilize its capacity.
John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management, said the district is willing to work with St. Philip’s to relocate those classes and mentioned bringing portables to the college to accommodate the classes.
District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said portables would be an immediate solution, whereas remediating the mold from Bowden would take a long time to complete.
Sprague asked Snyder if funds for the bond issue could be increased with interest rates, saying he believed there was a chance funds could be increased.
Snyder said the financial projections for the bond issue were made conservatively because interest rates have been low for a long time, but the increase of interest rates would allow the board to expedite projects listed later in the bond recommendation.
Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, said she is concerned with a bond election in May until the board has received positive feedback from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges about the district’s effort to meet the agency’s recommendations.
SACSCOC found this college and St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges in violation of six Comprehensive Standards for accreditation after a visit to the colleges.
The board asked the presidents to send a letter to the agency requesting SACSCOC review the colleges’ and district’s attempt at meeting the recommendations in June.
The college presidents were expected to send the letters Jan. 20.
McClendon said SACSCOC’s review of the colleges and district should not influence the bond election, expressing concern that a denial for an expedited review by the agency would prolong the bond election.
“Our approach is to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” McClendon said. “So, whether they say yay or nay is irrelevant to us.”
District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas asked how Katz would suggest handling the bond election if SACSCOC’s feedback is negative and questioned Katz’s confidence in the district’s ability to meet the agency’s recommendations.
“I think that has implications for us to consider not taking the bond election in May,” Katz said. “We may want to wait until we get some information from SACSCOC to see how they are reviewing the letters.
“I’m having doubts when SACSCOC will approve those things and we’ll be cleared off the record,” Katz said in response to Casillas’ concern.
Despite Katz’s concerns with public opinion of the board following SACSCOC’s recommendations, she did not vote against the bond issue.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate, District 1 trustee Joe Alderete, Sprague and McClendon agreed the board should vote in favor of a May bond election.
Rindfuss expressed concern with the public’s perception of the board during a bond election if the accreditation violations are not resolved.
Alderete rebutted, saying the board has held public meetings and the college presidents have sent emails to students.
Alderete said students should be able to trust the college presidents.
President Robert Vela said he sent personal letters to all 20,000 students actively enrolled.
The letter was sent Dec. 16 to students who had registered by then.
The letter said the college is still accredited and students should not worry about the loss of accreditation; the letter said students should continue to enroll, students nearing graduation should continue to meet with advisers and eligible students will continue to receive financial aid.
Dual credit students were excluded from receiving this letter, and Vanessa Torres director of public relations at this college, said dual credit students will receive a letter explaining the accreditation issue from corresponding school districts.
District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery expressed concern for the amount of needed construction and renovation dependent on the bond issues’ public approval and asked how the board could meet St. Philip’s renovation and construction needs if it does not pass.
Alderete said the citizens advisory committee had concerns with the square footage of the Westside Education and Training Center and the Southside Education and Training Center.
The citizens advisory committee wanted to see the square footage of the regional campuses double after the recommendation to increase funding to the campuses to $23 million each.
Strybos said the regional campuses will expand from the original 30,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet with the new bond issue.
Alderete expressed concern for the citizens advisory committee, saying the committee would not understand the meager increase in building size considering the recommended funds were more than doubled from the board’s recommended $11 million each.
Katz assured Alderete that a 40,000-square-foot building is massive, and Strybos assured Alderete the land the campuses will be constructed on could not accommodate a structure of more than 50,00 square feet, and 40,000 square feet would be adequate.
For more information on the bond issue and the recommended allocation of funds, visit https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=39958476.