Prop P review panel looking to finalize its work this week


Members of the Mehlville School District’s Proposition P Review Committee are looking to finalize their work this week.

The Proposition P Review Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the district’s Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

Committee members, who have been meeting since September, have drafted four policy and 10 procedural recommendations.

The panel also has answered nearly 100 questions regarding the Proposition P districtwide building-improvement program.

The panel is looking to polish its recommendations and answers this week with the goal of presenting a final report to the Board of Education on Thursday, March 22.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. However, a final budget revision approved by the Board of Education in December 2005 raised the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3-percent increase — more than $20.7 million over the nearly $68.4 million building-improvement program originally envisioned.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in June to approve a motion by Vice President Karl Frank Jr. and seconded by board member Tom Diehl to establish the Proposition P Review Committee.

In part, Frank’s motion states, “The Proposition P Review Committee will first seek input from the community by soliciting questions from the public in written form to be individually addressed in the final report. The submitted questions, as well as any other areas that the committee members should find necessary to review, will be-come the basis of this committee’s charge.”

The motion to form the panel also states, “The findings and recommendations are to be guided by a focus on providing constructive criticism, as well as positive confirmation and procedural improvement. After a thorough review by the Board of Education, the board will act appropriately on the findings and recommendations presented by the review committee. Upon completion of their report and presentation to the Board of Education, this committee will be dissolved.”

Frank and his wife, Elaine, submitted the majority of the nearly 100 questions regarding Proposition P. Oakville residents Paul Goldak and Felix Martin also submitted questions. The nearly 90 questions submitted by the Franks cover such areas as construction management, architectural and consulting contracts, “disclosure,” change orders, questions about specific projects, the Proposition P Oversight Committee and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities.

Besides addressing the questions, committee members also invited former district officials and others associated with the districtwide building-improvement program to discuss Proposition P. Those addressing the panel included Oversight Committee Chairman Chuck VanGronigen, former Superintendent John Cary, former Chief Financial Officer Randy Charles and Dwight Dickinson and Don Hussman of Dickinson Hussman Architects.

The committee’s tentative policy recommendations include:

• All district contracts over a set amount require presentation and approval by the Board of Education, and if approved, must be signed by the chief financial officer/board treasurer or superintendent and by the president of the Board of Education.

• All district contracts over a set amount must be reviewed and signed off on by the district legal counsel. A confirmation letter, outlining suggested recommendations and revisions must accompany the contract when presented for approval to the Board of Education.

• All contractual change orders over a set amount should be presented to the president of the Board of Education prior to their final approval. A monthly summary of all change orders and their financial implications should be provided to the Board of Education.

• All district oversight committees should be comprised of non-board member citizens of the community who are not employed by the Mehlville School District nor have any immediate family that is employed by the district. School-board members and administrators can be ex-officio, non-voting committee members on any district committee.

The panel’s tentative procedural recommendations include:

• Sufficient funds and adequate time should be allowed for the district architect to examine any and all district buildings proposed to be structurally modified or any new construction proposed in any future bond issue or tax levy. Communication with the architect is necessary to determine the time and budget to properly investigate a project.

• Depending on the size of the project and how it will be managed, the district may consider hiring a qualified person with construction knowledge to assist with the project.

• It would be advisable for the Board of Education to have the opportunity to review, on a monthly basis, all warrants and bills that come in regarding the building project, regardless of whether these are paid directly out of district funds or another source.

• On construction projects, the district should report to the school board and re-lease to the public, on a monthly basis, cost-to-budget updates and a work-in-progress time line. If there are multiple projects, each project should be reported individually.

• No ballot issue should be put before the voters unless the architect, the superintendent, the district chief financial officer and members of the Board of Education are comfortable with all aspects of the proposed tax levy or bond issue intended for future building projects.

• When planning a long-term building project, make sure the public is informed and engaged in reviewing the progress of the building projects through accessible means, as well as allow any person of the community to submit questions to the Board of Education for their reply in a timely manner.

• It is critical to be as transparent as possible with the public when you are dealing with expending public tax funds and that financial information is open for easy public scrutiny.

• Establish funding to provide for a detailed assessment of all existing buildings, existing technological infrastructure and all site improvements on a three-year basis. This assessment should include recommendations for maintenance, upgrades and future construction needs. Once the assessment is complete, it should be made available to the public.

• All construction contracts will include a not-to-exceed clause with a maximum stated dollar amount. If a “reimbursable clause” is part of the contract, all reimbursable items should be clearly defined and detailed on the contract.

• There were questions as to what were the Board of Education’s and the committee’s role in the requested tax levy and construction project. To help answer these questions, it is recommended that minutes from any Board of Education meeting or committee meeting related to the project be copied and placed in a separate document for easy public reference.