The next regular board meeting is Tuesday.
By Rogelio Escamilla
Trustees heard about capital improvement project amendments, the new SPIRE program and the treasurer’s investment report.
All board members were present at the Oct. 8 meeting.
Capital Improvements Project
Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, introduced four agenda items that will amend the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for construction projects around the district.
“Adjusting GMPs is not a normal thing,” District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said. “And I’m hoping this is the end of that, because that’s what guaranteed maximum price is all about, that’s why we went through this system.”
The guaranteed maximum price is the absolute limit on a construction project’s budget.
The district must set a GMP based on estimated costs before any construction project can begin, Snyder said.
Sprague said if a construction project goes over the guaranteed maximum price, the company overseeing the project would assume responsibility and pay the extra cost.
“I do understand with the layer of oversight, we had to have this one adjustment,” Sprague said. “But I do hope this is the last time I hear about adjusting the GMP.”
The first item, St. Phillip’s College’s Norris Technical Center renovation, had an original GMP of $16.78 million which was set Jan. 22 this year. The proposed amendment would increase the GMP by $2,506,018 to $19.28 million.
Pamela Ansboury, associate vice chancellor of finance and fiscal services, said the change in this project would allow certain building components originally designed to be paid for separately to be included in the GMP.
She said this would save money and reduce coordination challenges.
The second item, Northwest Vista College’s parking garage project, had an original GMP of $7.96 million. The amendment would increase the GMP by $391,351 to $8.36 million.
The third item, Northwest Vista College’s physical plant improvement project, had an original GMP of $3.12 million. The amendment would decrease the GMP by $322,832 to $2.79 million.
The fourth item, Northwest Vista College’s welcome center project, had an original GMP of $14.04 million. The amendment would decrease the GMP by $190,139 to $13.85 million.
Ansboury said the physical plant and welcome center’s cost savings allows for increased funding to add a parking garage level, increasing its capacity by 136 parking spaces.
All of Northwest Vista College’s original GMPs were set Dec. 11.
The public approved a $450 million bond issue in an election May 6, 2017.
District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante asked about the capital improvement project’s timeline.
“Maybe I don’t understand it completely, but we passed the bond in 2017,” she said. “Is this a standard amount of time we’ve been waiting? Because its already been over two years.”
District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz explained the five to six-year timeline for the project.
“As I recall, we talked about how we could structure the bond and not have to raise taxes,” Katz said. “And the structuring of the bond would go over at least a six-year period, so that we would not have to go in and raise taxes.
“That was one of the major things we worked on as a board and talked about, and said ‘yes we will look at not raising the tax rate if we can stretch it out.’
The board will vote on the proposed amendments at the next regular board meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 22 at 2222 N. Alamo St.
This meeting did not happen on the typical second Tuesday of the month because several board members were at the Association of Community College Trustees Leadership Congress on Oct. 15, and there would not have been enough members for a quorum, board liaison Sandra Torres said.
She also said every October they schedule around the event.
Dr. Mecca Salahuddin, director of strategic initiatives and performance excellence, presented an update on SPIRE, which stands for strategic priorities, initiatives, review and effectiveness.
SPIRE is a new process that will be used to review and document the effectiveness of all district-level initiatives like Alamo Promise, Alamo Advise and Alamo Institutes.
Ansboury said the process will not have an additional cost.
“It’s an opportunity to take time and space to review and reflect on the wonderful work we’re doing here at the district with some of our key initiatives and priorities,” Salahuddin said in her presentation.
The program has a goal of reviewing two initiatives every year. The first two initiatives that will be reviewed are Alamo Advise and Alamo Institutes.
The other initiatives that will be reviewed are Learning and Leadership Development, Alamo Online, Advocacy Centers, Experiential Learning, high school programs and Summer Bridge.
Salahuddin said the process will look at student outcomes, student and stakeholder feedback, allocated resources and key processes and systems involved with the initiatives.
“We’ll set some goals and targets through that process, and see where we’re making great gains, and where there are still opportunities for improvement,” she said. “We’re hopeful it will help us determine those best-practice initiatives that are really driving our mission, vision and values of the district.”
Chancellor Mike Flores said he is excited about SPIRE.
“Alamo Colleges wide-initiatives have never had a program review framework,” Flores said. “I do want to acknowledge that the colleges have had program review processes in place. We are going to utilize ours for initiatives.”
He also said the program will allow the district to bring in best-in-class experts to be part of the review process to further refine the initiatives.
The program is expected to be implemented in 2020. Additional details of the program will be discussed at the next board meeting.
District Treasurer Tracy Bedwell presented an investments report that began with an editorial cartoon that emphasized the district’s bleak portfolio performance.
The report included a graph showing the Federal reserve interest rates from January 2010 to July this year.
“Starting at about 2016, the Fed actually started to raise rates,” Bedwell said. “And it continued through 2017, 2018 and even the beginning of this year. We were expecting some more Fed hikes.”
“Instead,” she continued, “because of what was going on globally, uncertainty, trade issues, etc., rates have stopped going up, and have now started to go down.”
Bedwell said July was the first time in 10 years the Fed has reduced interest rates.
Reduced Federal interest rates means it costs the district less to borrow money, but when the district invests money they receive less investment income, Bedwell said in an interview.
“We’ve already had two Fed rate cuts this year,” she said. “We’ve had one in September, and we are expecting at least one or two more this year. It’s been a tough environment to be investing money.”
Bedwell continued her presentation by saying the district earned $4.9 million in investment income this year before the federal interest rates decreased. The income goes unrestricted to operating the district.
Although Federal interest rates have gone down, the 2019-20 tax rate, approved Sept. 17, did not cause an increase in taxes.
The combined tax rate, which is the maintenance and operations rate plus the debt tax rate, will remain steady at $0.149150 per $100 of taxable value.
Although tax rates have not increased, the district will still see an increase in revenue because property values have increased.
To calculate the current tax rate of a given property, divide its estimated property value by 100, then multiply the sum by 0.14950, Bedwell said.
For a $100,000 property, the projected amount the property owner will pay in taxes is $149.5.