On Nov. 4, Raphael Obafemi, District 65’s Chief Financial and Operations Officer, provided an overview of the District’s overall capital needs, together with recommendations for capital projects in the next five years. The needs far exceed the District’s resources to address them, so Mr. Obafemi explained the prioritization process he used in making his recommendations.
On Jan. 17, 2017, the School Board accepted a 10-year Life Safety Survey of the District’s buildings conducted by the architectural firm ARCON/AMSCO in the 2016-17 school year. The survey, which is required to be done every 10 years by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), identifies work that is either required or recommended for the District’s 16 school buildings and the Joseph E. Hill Administration Building. The total estimated cost of the work identified in ARCON’s life/safety survey is $38.3 million.
Richard Cozzi, an architect with ARCON, said at the time that the survey identifies work that is “urgent,” “required,” or “recommended.” Work classified as “urgent” is directly related to the health or safety of a student and must be done within one year. Work classified as “required” must be completed within five years. Work classified as “recommended,” he said, “is just that, recommended, not required to be completed.”
ARCON did not categorize any work in the District 65 life/safety survey as “urgent,” and, after some reclassifications, only about $270,000 of the work was categorized as “required,” Mr. Cozzi said. The vast bulk of the work is thus in the “recommended” category.
Mr. Obafemi told members of the Finance Committee on Nov. 4, that the District’s Master Building Work Summary identifies an additional $66.9 million in projects that are needed or desired for the District’s school buildings.
Mr. Obafemi said the Referendum approved by the voters in April 2017 included an allocation of $1,025,000 per year for life safety and capital projects. He said these funds plus the proceeds from the recent refinancing of the series 2011A bonds would make a total of about $10.1 million available to pay for capital projects in the next five years.
He said the $10.1 million “is a really, really tiny drop in the bucket” compared to the District’s overall capital needs that total more than $100 million.
He said the estimated cost of roofing repairs facing the District is about $20 million, and the estimated cost of masonry repairs is about $5 million. He recommended that virtually all of the money available for capital projects in the next five years go towards those repairs.
Mr. Obafemi recommended projects totaling about $5.7 million in FY’20, for roof and masonry repairs, removal of asbestos flooring, and abatement of asbestos containing floor tiles and mastic.
He recommended capital spending of about $1 million in both FY’21 and FY’22, and about $1.2 million in both FY’23 and FY’24. The work proposed is for roof and masonry repairs.
Mr. Obafemi said, “These projects include completing as many of the “required” life safety projects identified in the recently approved 10-Year Safety Survey as financially feasible, with a focus on roofing, masonry work and asbestos abatement. The goal of the plan is to address high priority building envelope (external structure) and prevent water intrusion. In developing this plan, we have taken great care to ensure students have a high quality and safe learning environment to support their education. Remaining work such as building HVAC systems will be scheduled according to priority, as funding permits.”
The Finance Committee recommended that the full Board approve the 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan.
Board President Suni Kartha said the five-year spending plan differs from the one considered by the Board last year in that it adds $5.1 million to the total expenditures, which amount is essentially the savings generated by the refinancing of the series 2011A bonds, and it reprioritizes work due to emerging needs.
“We’re trying to be proactive about planning ahead, but at the end of the day, because of limited funds, we have to be reactive as things come up and nimble enough to change,” Ms. Kartha said.