Q3 2019-20 Broward Schools SMART Program Report Review
The beginning of the 2019-20 school year marked the beginning of Year 6 of the SMART Program. This is significant in that all of the planned facilities construction projects at Broward public schools were to have been started by the end of Year 5. This has not happened. We now know that it is going to take longer than expected to complete the planned renovations, perhaps several years beyond the original forecast completion dates.
SMART Program funds have dramatically improved the amount and quality of technology in the classrooms. With the additional computers purchased with SMART Program funds, the District-wide average ratio of students to computers is now 2:1. Weight rooms and track facilities have been improved and tens of thousands of pieces of music and arts equipment have been purchased.
The District continues to struggle to find a sufficient number of proven roofing companies to replace 17 million square feet of roof on 1,353 buildings at more than 200 schools. Hiring challenges coupled with permitting issues and delays have made some roofing companies reluctant to work on SMART projects.
Perhaps the greatest concern is the issue of financial risk. Higher rates of inflation, higher roofing and mechanical/electrical/fire protection costs, and items that were excluded from the original scopes of work will undoubtedly continue to increase project costs. By how much is unknown, but the most recent risk assessment estimates that the total cost of SMART Program facility improvements could increase by about $429 million over original budgets. Florida TaxWatch considers controlling project costs and mitigating the additional financial risk to be the greatest challenge facing the District as SMART project implementation moves forward.
I am pleased to present the following report, which includes the Florida TaxWatch review of the SMART Program quarterly report for the quarter ending March 31, 2020. Florida TaxWatch staff will be available to present our findings and recommendations at the Committee’s June 15, 2020 meeting.