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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fwd: CIP Funding Concerns

From: Jacob Andoh
Date: Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:54 am
Subject: Fwd: CIP Funding Concerns

Good morning, all:

Thanks, Mrs. Beck, for sharing. A question of interest is why the silence?

The silence from our officials (Legislature, County Executive, County Council, School Board) on such a crucial issue - of destroying a girls' athletic field while at the same time spending limited public funds on a non-priority gymnasium expansion even as the county faces the glaring need for additional school seats and needed renovations of older schools - is deafening, perplexing, and bothersome. Even more so is the silence from the general community. What is a democracy without the people's consent and collective voice?.

Jacob Andoh
1702 Doral Court
Mitchellville, MD 20721

Note: forwarded message attached.

From: HathawayBeck@aol.com
Date: Mon Jan 24, 2005 9:30 pm
Subject: [TF_HSCA] CIP Funding Concerns
To: tf_hsca@yahoogroups.com

January 24, 2005

Open letter to Prince George's County Senators and Delegates:

One of the many 2005 Legislative Priorities of the Prince George's County Board of Education is advocating for school construction/renovation funding above the amount currently in the Governor's proposed budget. According to the facilities study commissioned by the Board, and completed by 3DI International, more than $1 billion in repairs and renovations are needed for existing PGCPS facilities; this figure does not address capacity (new seat) requirements.

We are all aware of -- and most likely, can relate from first hand knowledge -- numerous, county-wide, accounts of leaking roofs, mold in bathrooms, hazardous athletic fields, etc., associated with our public school facilities. It is a travesty that many Prince George's county students attend school in decaying, decrepit buildings. You must be frustrated representing communities where schools are physically crumbling and construction dollars are so limited.

Last year our County requested $33.3 million from the State and received $10,174,000.

That said, consider the disconnect: Sometime between January and March, 2004, the Schematic Design for the Regional High School (Upper Marlboro) was changed to enlarge a planned 1,700 seat gym into a 5,000 seat gym costing an additional $6.9m. Even more disturbing, the evidence indicates that this expenditure is, or appears to be, without county approval:

1.) May 18, 2005, letter from County Executive Jack B. Johnson to County Council Chairman Tony Knotts: "Please note that we cannot support Dr. Hornsby's March 31, 2004 request for additional funding ($6.9 million) to construct an enlarged 5,000-seat gymnasium. Although the addition would make this school a unique showplace, it is a luxury we cannot currently afford with so many other unmet school construction needs." The County Council concurred with Johnson and did not include additional funding for the Regional HS gym in the CIP.

2.) October 19, 2004, letter from County Council Chairman Tony Knotts to Board of Education Chair Beatrice Tignor: "As you know, the County Council has previously expressed concern about the construction of facilities at the Regional High School that are beyond the scope of work authorized in the approved Capital Improvement Program." The Knotts' letter cites the " ... unauthorized construction of the 5000 seat indoor arena”, “... incorrect site plan information for the Regional High School that has been on the Board's website," and "the continued publication of incorrect information may have resulted in a lack of attention to this issue by the news media and the community at large."

3.) October 19, 2004, letter from County Council Chairman Tony Knotts to County Attorney David Whitacre seeking advice "concerning appropriate and necessary legislative and legal action to suspend the transfer of any additional funds for the Regional High School ...".

4.) November 30, 2004, ‘Joint Signature’ letter from County Executive Jack B. Johnson and County Council Chair Tony Knotts: "... the County's highest priorities ... to provide every student with a seat in a permanent school building and the need to revitalize our aging building inventory." The letter also emphasized "One important matter to note is that the Board has included costs for a 5,000-seat gymnasium in the total project cost of $92.0 million. Given all of the other pressing facility needs, the County cannot afford this particular element of the project. As such, the total project cost that the County is supporting is $85.5 million."

5.) December 16, 2004, Board of Education Emergency Resolution #195-04 (bolding added):
WHEREAS, the Prince George's County Board of Education is constructing a new Regional High School; and
WHEREAS, the Board is constructing a gymnasium at the new Regional High School that will have a seating capacity of 5000; and
WHEREAS, the funding approved by the County Government does not include the additional funding necessary for expansion of the gymnasium at the new Regional High School; and

WHEREAS, the expansion may add $6.5 million to the construction costs associated with the new Regional High School.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Education of Prince George's County hereby authorizes the Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George's County Public Schools to seek alternative funding for the additional costs associated with the construction of the gymnasium for the new Regional High School.

Motion carried. Voting age: Mr. Bailer, Dr. Crowley, Mr. Duncan, Dr. Dukes, Mr. Morales, Mr. Stone, and Dr. Tignor. Voting nay: Mrs. Mickens-Murray.

Confused? Well, join the the rest of us who are trying to get schools repaired and additional classroom seats.

I find it hard to believe, given our considerable capacity and systemmic repair/renovation funding needs, that a 5,000 seat gym -- (seemingly) unauthorized and (apparently) unfunded by the County Executive and County Council -- is under construction. That the Board of Education has sidestepped (leapfrogged over?) desperately needed repairs outlined in their own facility report, and ignored what appears to be the consistent refusal of (elected) county leadership to endorse or fund this expanded gym.

Further, the Board's Resolution authorized their CEO to seek "alternative funding" to support a project that does not align with the county's priorities. If there really is $6.5-$6.9m available 'elsewhere' for school construction, who decided to spend these funds on a ... gym; and, shouldn't the Board of Education/CEO be searching for school construction funds for seats or repairs/renovations first?

Will the State, with equally limited CIP funds, participate in a project condemned, in writing, by both the County Executive and the County Council? When you are pressing for more school repair and construction funds, how do you explain to your legislative colleagues that the Prince George's County Board of Education does not support documented county priorities and is actually building a mega-gym without county or state (?) authorization.

You have to wonder what other extremely costly, runamok, decisions could--or will--this Board of Education make, without public oversight or county support, to 'enhance' the two new high schools recently announced?

You need to know why the County Executive as well as the County Council remained quiet about this real or appearance of malfeasance.

(To all other readers: Direct valid questions to the legislature who told the citizens of Prince George's County that under an appointed Board of Education ... ‘things would get better'.)


Donna Hathaway Beck
9906 Sudan Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

PS: (1) as of January 7, 2005, the public continues to be deceived by an inaccurate Schematic Design for the Regional High School posted on the www.pgcps.org website; and (2) this state-of-the-art project is now 800-parking spaces short according to planners.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson
Members, County Council
Members, Board of Education

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