Comms Staff
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Monitoring and Oversight of General Obligation Bonds to Improve Broward County Schools: SMART Program Quarterly Report Review for the Quarter Ended March 31, 2021

On May 28, 2021, Florida TaxWatch received the Bond Oversight Committee Quarterly Report for the Quarter Ended March 31, 2021 (“Quarterly Report”). This report provides updated information on the implementation of the District’s SMART Program and the use of general obligation bond funds to purchase and install technology upgrades, purchase music, and arts equipment, improve school safety, upgrade athletic facilities, and renovate educational facilities.

To encourage greater accountability, transparency, public support, and confidence in the use of the general obligation bond funds, and to hold the District accountable for spending decisions, Florida TaxWatch has reviewed the District’s Quarterly Report against the most recent SMART Program schedule and budget.

Completed Projects: 

Non-Primary Renovations Security & Saftey Projects - completed at all 238 schools

Music Equipment - Completed at all 195 identified schools.

Art Equipment - Completed at 135 of 136 identified schools.

Theater Equipment - Completed at 38 of 39 identified schools.

Track Projects: Completed at all identifies schools.

Weight Rooms - Completed at 29 of 30 identified schools.

Technology - Completed at all 230 identified schools.

Areas of Concern:

Construction schedule resets.

Primary Renovation Projects delays.

Schedule-related issues.

Budget.

Expenditures.

Financial risk.

Reserve funding.

Hard costs vs. soft costs.

Supplier diversity and outreach.

Communications.

Tax Watch Recommendations:

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District establish a date by which the remaining planned theater upgrade will be completed.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District clarify the status of the Northeast High School weight room renovations

Florida TaxWatch recommends that the District brief the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting on steps taken by the SBBC/District to reduce the frequency and length of construction delays.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District brief the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting on steps taken to reduce the amount of time it takes to navigate the change order process, including delegating authority to approve change orders below a certain threshold.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District brief the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting on steps taken to reduce the number rounds of review and re- submissions before a roofing sub-permit binder is approved, and to increase the number of roofing subcontractors who have been able to consistently obtain a roofing permit.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District adopt as a standard practice the forwarding of copies of all audits/investigations involving the use of SMART/GOB funds to the Committee and to Florida TaxWatch.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District brief the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting on the results of its investigation into the cause of the partial roof collapse at James S. Rickards Middle School and the status of the roofs at the other four schools with similar designs.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District include SMART Program budget allocations for years 9 (FY 2022-23) through 12 (FY 2025-26).

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District calculate the lifespan of remaining unexpended SMART Program funds and evaluate the possibility that the District may exhaust the remaining unspent SMART Program funds before the planned facilities construction projects have been completed.

Florida TaxWatch recommends that, if it appears that the District may exhaust the remaining unspent SMART Program funds before the planned facilities construction projects have been completed, District staff should be prepared to present to the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting the District’s plan to make up the shortfall.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District brief the Committee on the dramatic changes in the cumulative percentage of contracts awarded to or purchases made from Hispanic- American owned companies and Women-owned companies from Q2 2020-21 to Q3 2020- 21.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District brief the Committee on its plan to address the over-representation of Hispanic-American owned businesses and under-representation of African-American owned businesses.

Florida TaxWatch recommends the District present its schedule for implementing this comprehensive messaging/communication campaign to the Committee at its June 14, 2021 meeting.

 

The District continues to make progress in implementing the SMART Program. Despite this progress, the District will have to face several challenges going forward. Florida TaxWatch considers controlling project costs and mitigating the additional financial risk to be the greatest challenge facing the District as SMART Program implementation moves forward. In this report, Florida TaxWatch has offered recommendations to help guide the Bond Oversight Committee in its oversight of the implementation of the SMART Program, and to ensure that the public’s right-to-know how the taxpayer-approved General Obligation Bond funds are being spent is well- served. Florida TaxWatch looks forward to presenting the results of its review to the Committee and the public, and to providing continued support and guidance as the Bond Oversight Committee continues its effective oversight of SMART Program implementation.

 

 

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