Memo for fiscal year 2018, updated 2017-04-19

[Archived] Question #69: Follow-up Questions on the proposed Ad Hoc Joint City-Schools Facility Investment Task Force

The Mayor has asked a number of questions and raised a number of issues regarding the proposed Ad Hoc Joint City-Schools Facility Investment Task Force (the “Task Force”).  The following addresses those issues and answer those questions:

Question: Would the Task Force duplicate the efforts of the long-established focus on “Shared Resources” that the existing City/Schools Committee discusses?

Response: There should not be little duplication as the “Shared Resources” efforts have been largely focused on potential operational opportunities for sharing of programs, responsibilities and services utilizing existing facility space, and generally has not considered opportunities created by future planned City and ACPS capital investments.  Broadband planning has been an exception to that.

Question: Why spend $300,0000 on consultants?  Why not use BFAAC as well as the City/Schools Committee?  What questions will the new Task Force pose that our staff would not think to ask?

Response:  Given the Task Force’s work is short term and intense, and given staff’s limited resources, having a professional firm knowledgeable in facilities planning and project implementation would help the process move along more quickly and with more expert technical assistance.  Also, some of the consultant monies could be used to study facility construction and facility maintenance practices internal to the City and ACPS.  Since this would be a study of both the City and ACPS, having a more neutral professional entity lead the effort might be viewed by some as more appropriate.

Each of those existing City groups (BFAAC and City/Schools) has its own strengths, limitations and experiences.  It is up for Council to decide what type of group to utilize for this effort and what the charge to that group should be.  What staff has done to this point is carry out Council direction and develop a thorough proposal based on the Vice-Mayor’s proposal as well as subsequent Council discussion on the subject.

The Task Force proposal was drafted to be comprised of members with technical and professional expertise in a number of facility related areas, and that is not the composition of either BFAAC or the City/Schools Committee.  The Task Force is intended also to be “disinterested” and neutral, which City staff and ACPS staff may not be in regard to the projects for which each of those staffs are responsible.  

It is Council’s decision as to whether or not the information they receive from the City and ACPS staff is sufficient to make facility capital planning decisions.

Question: Has anyone proposed a public-private partnership (P3)?

Response: Without a specific solicitation by ACPS or the City, the likelihood of receiving a P3 proposal is slim.  There is an established State Code procedure for formally soliciting P3 proposals, but it is not in place for the City or ACPS.  Often P3’s are solicited through an RFP or RFI issued by the interested governmental agency. That aside, the City has been approached by those who may want to partner on historic preservation tax credits in the renovation of City Hall, as well as there are many vendors who have approached the City and likely ACPS in regard to the financing and installation of energy saving technology on or in public facilities.

Question:  Why is the timeframe so short?

Response: If the intent of Council is to help frame the Capital Improvement Program for FY19 to FY28 and beyond, then the next budget/capital planning cycle drives this aggressive deadline.  If Council does not wish to have the CIP prioritization for the next budget and CIP cycle, then the Task Force could take a longer period of time.  

Question: What is lacking in our existing forecasting, budgeting and construction process?  What is the need for this Task Force?

Response: Forecasting of enrollment growth is not an issue, as the jointly prepared enrollment projections from City and ACPS staff have been very accurate.  Budgeting periodically has been an issue for individual facility projects such as Patrick Henry.  Currently the City Manager’s proposed CIP includes $199 million in City facilities proposed for funding over the next ten years and $373 million in ACPS projects. The unfunded supplemental CIP includes another $203 million of ACPS projects not funded, and there are millions of dollars’ worth of other City and ACPS projects that did not even make it to the CIP Supplemental list.  If Council decides to increase the real estate tax rate (up to 3-cents more has been advertised), then there will be new income to the CIP and therefore new projects that need to be identified and prioritized.  One way of undertaking this identification and prioritization of projects is the proposed Task Force.  A second way could be to have the City staff and ACPS identify how they would recommend using the funds, and then Council could make the funding decisions.

Question: Explain our ability to determine and impose CIP limits on ACPS.

Response: City Council sets the overall level of funding in the CIP for ACPS projects.  This would be actual appropriated funding in the first year of the CIP, and then planned funding for the last nine years of the CIP.  This gives Council the full ability to determine and impose CIP dollar level limits on ACPS.  However, once the appropriation is made, under the authority established by state law, schools in Virginia have the complete discretion in the use of these funds as long as they meet the definition of “school capital”.  Funds can be held in contingency on the City side of the budget and then appropriated to ACPS when Council determines it is willing to do so.

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