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Saturday, August 29, 2015

School District Lacks Funds to Finish ECCL

Cost Overruns Leave District Exposed:

School District Scrambles to Buy 

Tables & Chairs

Rumblings of Selling More Bonds

News Analysis
Some have warned this date would come....
At its Wednesday August 26th School Board meeting, the Emery Unified School District wrung its hands with worry about how they would find the money to complete the District/City Hall joint project, the Emeryville Center for 'Community' Life (“ECCL”).

Imaginary Typical Chair
Cost to School District: $335
Nexus Partners fee per chair: $36.85
Nexus to District:
'Imagine a chair.
Now send us $36 because
that's all you have money for.'
With the costs to complete the work on the community swimming pool coming in significantly higher than estimated, Board Members expressed concern over whether they would even have enough money to purchase the furnishings, fixtures, and equipment (“FFE”) needed to make the ECCL usable for students and the community.  “FFE” is defined as “moveable furniture, fixtures or equipment that have no permanent connection to the structure of the building, landscape, or infrastructure.” Current estimates place the total FFE cost at about $2.7 million. Board President John Affeldt suggested that the City's $21 million contribution to the ECCL was inadequate and that instead now maybe, “Everyone [the District & the City] takes care of their own FFE.” and “We are not obligated to pay for the City's' FFE.” Mr Affeldt later elaborated on his view by explaining that the message to the City would be, “Hey, if you want chairs, you know, you guys, just letting you know, you need to figure that out.” 

How did the District end up in this situation?
While it would be convenient for the District to claim that no one could have anticipated cost overruns and to place the blame for this shortfall there, long-time readers of the Tattler may be able to fathom a different explanation.

Where did all the money go? (Partial List)
Amount Details
$8,717,265* Nexus Partners (fee based on 11% of total project cost, including FFE) for architectural/design services including “Full Service Community Task Force”
$1,750,000 Lease (and extend lease to) Santa Fe Elementary from Oakland Unified rather than use vacant Ralph Hawley site
$1,733,467 Clean up of toxic waste found in ECCL site soil. (Who could have guessed?)
$1,100,000 Swinerton Builders for construction project oversight after Roy Miller's resignation
$208,800 National Equity Project, Children's Aid Society, MIG, and Partners in School Innovation for “program development”
$20,607 iPads, iPad covers, and iPad software purchased in September 2011 and additional iPad software and iPad imaging cart purchased in June 2012. All iPads purchased have now been stolen, lost, or rendered obsolete.
$17,000 Davis & Associates for a Communications Plan, including a “rapid response team” for responding to the Tattler.
$Who knows? Potentially questionable bond fees paid to firms that other districts are suing for conflict of interest and breach of fiduciary duties.

*The architectural/design services fees item is included not because the District could have done without this entirely, but because, as the linked Tattler article explains, Nexus Partners were paid $168,650 in February 2013 to conduct a Full Service Community Task Force in which they led a few community meetings that were then abruptly canceled (did we get any refund for the canceled meetings?) and because Nexus sent us a bill for $479,151 in May 2013, simply because the total cost of the project had increased and their fee is percentage-based.  This means the District literally payed Nexus Partners 11% of the estimated cost of FFE that we now cannot afford to actually buy.  This method of invoicing is so fantastic it takes a degree in architecture to understand it.

School Board President John Affeldt
Ooops!  We're out of money...
we'll just hit up the City for more.

 They're our partners in this
& they've got deep pockets.
What are they gunna do?
Turn us down?
Nearly two years ago, on November 24, 2013, after a series of high-profile EUSD staff resignations, the Tattler asked, “Have staff (finally) looked at the financials and realized that there is neither enough money to build the Board's K-12 vision, nor to operate this Taj Majal complex within the realities of our available bond funds and general fund dollars?”
The Tattler has consistently ridiculed the District's outsized payouts to consultants and its over-spending when less costly alternatives were available. Were we just being miserly?  No.  It was in anticipation of this day.  The reason for Board of Trustees to spend taxpayer money in fiscally responsible ways is because otherwise you end up here....with a half-built project that we cannot afford to finish or furnish.  The above chart contains places where $2-3 million could easily have been saved and which the Tattler and concerned residents urged the District at the relevant times not to spend.

More Bond Money?
Never fear; in addition to the crisis around these extra costs for the pool and the FFE revealed at Wednesday's School Board meeting, the Board heard a presentation from bond advisor (and top Measure J contributor), Caldwell Flores, about how the District could go out for even more expensive bonds (and pay more fees to Caldwell Flores) in a last-ditch effort to close the District's funding gap.  That's right.  Who will be picking up the tab for this District's spendy ways?  Emeryville guessed it.  Your bill is in the mail.


  1. Why don't you just say it...I told you so?

  2. So not a surprise. Thanks for the detailed reporting, Brian. Good work. I have opposed this project from the day I moved to Emeryville nearly thirteen years ago. But even then, the project was a "done deal". The community could only give input as to the layout.
    Joan Strasser

  3. I'm sure Rubio has reasons for why this is necessary and safe but there's no reason why he needed to put up the sign saying parents must register online when clearly they can opt out. You should do a follow on story to get his take. If parents are allowed to opt out, why does the sign say they don't? And this doesn't qualify as "coercion", this is just an outright lie.

    1. I think you meant to put this comment to the previous story about the District using an online for-profit corporation to data mine children's private information.

  4. Isn't this what the oversight committee is for? If not, what exactly is their role and responsibilities?

  5. where did you get your figures brian?

    isn't anyone else reading this story besides me? what do you mean "all ipads purchased have now been stolen, lost or rendered obsolete? " any fool knows how rapidly technology changes. who authorized the purchase of ipads years before the opening of the eccl? there is absolutely no excuse for this. please investigate and find out what happened to them. did they go by the way of the two new bass guitars that were donated to the anna yates music department four years ago?

  6. between april and september, 2011 a total of $247,333.27 was paid to apple computer for ipads.

  7. They were stolen. Ask the District.