BUSD Taj Mahal - $12.4 Million and Counting

I missed the Beaumont Unified School District board meeting this week because I had a prior obligation. August 23rd is my son’s birthday and I had promised to take him on the new Star Tours ride at Disneyland. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, we recommend you do, it is very cool.

I haven’t been attending all the board meetings lately, but when I do, I no longer feel it is necessary to stay for the whole meeting. The board’s actions over the last year have made it obvious they, and the administration, don’t welcome parents at their meetings anyway. I still listen to every minute of the podcast so you don’t have to.

Before the general meeting, the Assistant Superintendent of Business, Mr. Elatar, presented a workshop on the district’s new Educational Support Facility. What is the Educational Support Facility? It’s the district’s new $12.4 million headquarters; I like to refer to it as their Taj Mahal. Mr. Elatar provided a history of the project and an argument for why the district needs a centralized district office.

He reviewed the history of the budgeting and bidding for the project and reported that the last “Guaranteed Maximum Price” from Bogh Engineering in August 2011 was $10.6 million. He told us about the district’s latest *value engineering (cost cutting) for the project that has reduced the overall cost from Bogh’s initial projection of $15 million to $12.4 million. Mr. Elatar reported the total cost projection of all the district’s projects has increased 14.6%, from $41 million to $48 million. He went on to argue that since the Taj Mahal’s cost projection has increased only 13.2 % ($1.64 million) that somehow this is a good thing. I wonder if Mr. Elatar has spent any time working in Washington DC.

The district worked with our community for the value engineering they did on the sports complex and the classroom expansion at the high school, but, as I predicted, there was no public participation for the value engineering of the Taj Mahal. Mr. Elatar told us that the majority of the cost cutting involved finishing touches and selecting lower cost material to be used in the construction, there were very little structural changes. I wonder if this would have been the case if the public was involved in the discussion.

There was one very important item missing from Mr. Elatar’s presentation, a plan. Where is the plan? Where are the drawings? What features make up the $12.4 million? I’m not surprised no one is providing us a detailed look at our kid’s new educational support. When I asked about this, I was told I had to contact the head of their facilities department to request any information. Why hasn't something been provided to the newspapers as they did for the new stadium? Once I receive anything from the district I will make it public here.

The administration acts as if this is their Taj Mahal and not ours. They constantly tell us that no Measure Z funds will be used. They believe this makes public oversight unnecesary. All funds used by Beaumont Unified School District are public funds and we all have a right to see what we are paying for. We are entitled to see an artist rendition and a list of features before construction begins.

I believe there are alternatives to the Taj Mahal that don't cost $12.4 million.

Stay tuned.

*I wrote about the district’s plan to use value engineering for all their construction projects and I explained what value engineering was in an earlier post. Here’s the link: /blog/2011/1/19/busds-projects-are-estimated-to-run-more-than-20000000-over.html