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Breaking News: Fifth Ward School to Cost $65 Million, Bussing Savings only $750k
A short post before a longer post once I get Dr. Turner's Memo
Quick update - I was at tonight’s District 65 Board Meeting but had to leave at 7pm. The meeting is still going on and it’s 8:35pm. You can watch it below:
The room was packed for the meeting. The whole thing was done in English and Spanish and slowed the meeting to a grind. They need to figure out a way to use subtitles or something.
Here’s the summary of the interesting findings and my notes from the meeting:
Dr. Angel Turner read off a memo she is presenting to the Board (I don’t have a copy yet). Essentially her memo claimed the following:
Upon becoming interim superintendent she hired an outside firm to assess the District’s financial shape, including costs of the new school.
The new fifth ward school, in the iteration the Board is requesting will cost around $65 million, up from $40 million.
The savings from the bussing is $750k. This estimate is even less than my $2 million estimate and certainly less than the numbers the District presented and put on the lease certificate. 1
The lease certificate is for $40 million and they have collected $4 million in interest. The rest of the funds will be made up with general obligation debt.
She became aware of the costs of the new school as far back as May 2023 but this was before she was interim superintendent.
There are many options she has available for the school, from a smaller profile K-5 to a larger full price K-8 school.
After this, the board members acted shocked and some indicated they were saddened by this news. They then began a multi-hour process of discussing how to spend the $65 million dollars.
I believe it’s all moot and political posturing because:
If the savings are only $750k, where is the money coming from to pay the $3.25m lease certificate payments? You can close schools and maybe make some changes but with a District already facing massive budget issues, that seems unclear.
How does the District reconcile that they very clearly lied on the lease certificate? This is material enough, that I believe it requires bond holder notification under the lease certificate terms.
If we use general obligation bonds to build the school, I believe a referendum should be required. I suppose they can try and hope that nobody sues?
I was very impressed with Dr. Turner, her memo, and her presentation. She seemed to be the only person in the front of the room that recognized the seriousness of the financial situation.
I believe this is further evidence to suggest that Dr. Horton and potentially, the Board engaged in securities fraud when they signed a lease certificate with numbers they knew to be false.