Stewardship of Public Funds in Capital Projects

The spending of tax-payer dollars is done very publically, through conservative planning, cautious oversight over time, and at the direction of elected officials.

 

LONG-RANGE PLANNING

 

The Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) Report provides the Puyallup School Board a thoughtfully crafted list of capital projects prioritized to direct project planning over time. In 2004 and again in 2012, this committee put forth a 12-year plan to be used when making the decisions which lead to bond elections. This later report is posted on the district website.

 

In subsequent years, this committee has been reformed to evaluate and update the capital projects plan.

 

BOND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

 

Bond programs are crafted on the foundation of this 12-year plan by the Bond Advisory Committee (BAC). This committee is tasked by the board to put together the next bond package which represents the most pressing needs articulated in priority in the CFAC Plan. This committee takes into account public input, the economy, statutory requirements, financing methods, and the financial capacity of the district and its citizens to recommend a package to the board.

 

The Bond Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Puyallup School Board to assist in decision-making. Over several months of conversation, public study sessions, research, and consideration, the elected directors serving on the Puyallup School Board determine what portion of the 12-year plan will be funded as a result of the proposition placed before voters in a bond election.

 

Members of the board of directors must consider a number of variables when preparing a proposition for a bond election and implementing the 12-year CFAC plan. Two potential sources of financial relief are as follows:

 

  • State Match – If a school district’s project meets eligibility requirements based on age and condition for modernization and a demonstrated need for more space, Washington State will provide matching funds for new construction. This funding, however, is not guaranteed from year to year. If approved it is issued once during the fiscal year which floods the market for construction with many projects at once, thus inflating costs. These funds are only accrued after the district has spent dollars first.

 

  • Earned Interest – Bond sale proceeds (dollars) are kept invested until spent. This interest, over time, can supply the district with a safety net, or contingency fund for use when emergencies arise (such as the flooding which took place at Ferrucci Junior High School) or can be directed to projects still needing to be done on the 12-Year CFAC Plan.

 

During the planning process, it is possible that state match and earned interest could be subtracted from the total cost of a bond proposal. This would reduce the amount of money being collected from tax-payers. However, given the uncertainty of the economy and decisions made by the state Legislature, it is always a risk to plan in this way. With a commitment to making good on promises made to voters, the practice of the Puyallup School Board has been to use funding from state match and earned interest to ensure that projects listed on the proposition are completed, and to use additional resources for projects still remaining (not yet funded) on the 12-Year CFAC Plan.

 

OVERSIGHT & ACCOUNTABILITY

 

Once the 2004 Bond Issue was passed by voters, a Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) made up of community members was commissioned by the board to advise it regarding the implementation of the bond program of projects. Members included those from the banking community, businesses, parents, and education. In addition to overseeing the implementation of all the bond projects to assure adherence to scope, schedule, and cost, the 2004 team made recommendations for when and how to use bond money, state match, and interest income so as to ensure that over time the district would have the opportunity to complete projects which were not yet funded through the 2004 bond program but were nevertheless important projects left to do on the 12-Year CFAC Plan.

 

Decisions made by the PSD board of directors are done publically at regularly scheduled meetings. The opinions of parents and community members are considered as a routine part of the board meeting agenda. It is the engagement of constituents which make the board meetings meaningful and which inform the directors when making these very important decisions.

 

Clearly, the management of tax-payer dollars is done very publically. Advisory committees inform the board when propositions are drafted for the voters to consider. Voters are encouraged to engage in the process of learning through dialogue and conversation, and many meetings are held to help people clarify their understanding before they vote. Elected officials direct the spending of tax-payer dollars with consultation from additional committees of interested community members. The opportunities for engagement are numerous.

 

It is through conservative planning, cautious oversight, and at the direction of elected officials that spending risks are considered, the scope and cost of projects are evaluated, and spending decisions are made.

 

Also, consider the following:

 

  • The school district has earned 11 straight years of perfect audits performed by the Washington State Auditor.
  • In the last 3 years, the school district has collected less than its full authorized amount of levy funds
  • In recent past, the school district refinanced bonds saving tax-payers $23.2 million

 

As evidenced in the overwhelmingly positive response of voters in the recent levy election, the children of Puyallup are going to continue to experience a tradition of excellence in their public schools.