United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D-C. 20648 Health, Education and Human Services Division R-276766 May 6, 1997 The Honorable Charles H. Taylor Chairman, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia Committee on Appropriations House of Representatives Subject: District of Columbia Draft Emerrrencv Sunplemental Funding Reauestfor District of Columbia Public Schools Dear Mr. Chairman: On April 11, 1997,the Subcommittee received a draft request for emergenc# supplemental federal funds to improve its public school facilities. This request for supplemental funds was made by the DC. Financial Responsibility and ManagementAssistanceAuthority on behalf of the District of Columbia Public Schools @G’S). DCPS, which has more than 160 schools, has requested $36.86million in supplemental funding for emergencypublic school facility improvements. DCPS has defined emergency,or critical, repairs as those repairs that if not done could result in schools closing for health and safety reasons. Major critical repairs include replacing roofs, boilers, and chillers, bringing facilities into compliance with requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and removing underground storage tanks. According to DCPS, $86.9 million is required to make critical repairs to ensure that all schools will be ready to open for the 1997-98school year. Of this amount, $49.76million is potentially available. ‘This is the terminology used in the request. We did not independently assess the appropriateness of this wording. GAO/REM&97-116R DCPS Draft Supplemental Request E&276766 You asked us to review the details supporting the request. The information in this correspondence is based on (1) our past work on the condition of America’s schools,2(2) a review of documents DCPS and the Authority provided in support of the request, and (3) discussions with DCPS and the General ServicesAdministration (GSA), which has estimated repair costs for each DCPS school facility. In summary, we found no reason to challenge the validity of DCPS’ need for critical capita3improvements. DCPS’ estimate of the cost of these improvements-$86.9 million, $36.86million of which it is now requesting to cover its fiscal year 1997funding shortfall-seems reasonable based on available data We did not address the issue, however, of whether other, more appropriate sources of funding are available. DCPS has developed a capital improvement plan for completing emergency school repairs by September 1997and has hired a chief operating officer/director of facilities. Given the scope of the repairs required, however, and the number of schools involved, DCPSmay not have enough staff to effectively oversee an effort of this magnitude in such a short time period. In addition, although DCPS officials said that they have been talking to major construction firms about construction managementand precertifying individual contractors to execute the plan, the scopes of work and timing for each project in the plan have not yet been developed. FUNDING AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN FOR EMERGENCYREPAIRSOF DCPS FACILJTIES In a 1994nationwide study of the condition of America’s schools, we documented the less-than-adequatecondition of the District of Columbia’s public schools. Ninety-seven percent of District schools reported a need to upgrade or repair on-site buildings to good overall condition. At the time of our study, DCPS’ facilities manager reported that the schools, which had an average age of 60 years, were structurally sound, but older buildings housed old- sometimes original-systems, such as the heating and air conditioning or electrical systems, which had major repair problems. For example, old boiler systemshad steam leakages that caused such infrastructure erosion that whole 2SchoolFacilities: Condition of America’s Schools (GAO/HEHS-9b61,Feb. 1, 1996);School Facilities: America’s Schools ReDOrtDiffering Conditions (GAOBIEHS-96-103,June 14, 1996);and School Facilities: Profiles of School Condition bv State (GAOIHEHS-96-148,June 24, 1996). 2 GAO/HEHS-97-116R DCPS Draft Supplemental Request R-276766 school wings had been condemned and cordoned off; leaky roofs were causing ceilings to crumble onto teachers’ and students’ desks; and fire doors were warped and could not be opened and closed. In addition, at that time, DCPS was under court order to fix the most serious of the estimated $90 million worth of fire code violations by the start of the 199496 school year. In 1994, the facilities manager estimated that at least $460million was needed to make necessaryrepairs. In 1996,the Congressrequested GSA to do a complete study of the District schools. In response, GSA updated a 1991study done by a contractor who had inspected all the schools. GSA then developed a detailed list on a school-by- school and repair-by-repair basis of work needed and its cost. The recent draft emergency supplementa appropriation request is based on GSA’s work and DCPS plan-which includes the prioritization of types and timing of repairs at individual schools-for fixing emergencyfacility problems. DCPS officials consider the supplemental request necessaryto complete the first phase of its three-phased school modernization and revitalization plan, which addressesimmediate fiscal year 1997needs. The priority given to the types of repairs specified in the first phase of the plan appears to be appropriate. These repairs include those identified as critical and, if not done, could result in school closings. The second phase of the plan involves what DCPS has termed “short-term” needs and identifies repairs, replacements, and improvements needed during fiscal years 1998and 1999. During this phase, planning will begin on modernizing schools and disposal of excess space should progress. To meet the requirements of the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1996,DCPS has to develop a Long Range Facilities Master Plan. This long-term plan includes the final phase, slated for fiscal years 2000-07,to revitalize school facilities and property. According to a DCPS official, the Long Range Facilities Master Plan was submitted to the Congresson April 26, 1997. Although our work on the condition of America’s schools and GSA’swork support the need for massive school facility repairs, another significant issue is the potential inability of DCPSto manage the magnitude of work involved in doing these repairs in the next 6 months. This effort will involve repairs in 44 schools with up to five contractors working at each school, according to DCPS officials. DCPS currently has 14 staff to manage what amotmts to more than 200 projects. DCPS expects to soon hire 13 additional staff to help manage these projects. However, given the extremely short time frame for completing these projects and the time needed to orient and organize the new staff, it remains to be seen how effectively they-along with the existing staff-will be able to manage this large workload. 3 GAO/HEHS-97-116R DCPS Draft Supplemental Request H-276766 AGENCY COMMENTS The District of Columbia Public schools reviewed a draft of this letter and concurred with our assessmentof cost issues. The Chief Operating Officer/Director of Facilities reiterated his position that the school system has the ability to tackle present needs and will have in place a fully functional team by the end of May. He also stated that the system intends to obligate the $86.6 million by September 30, 1997. We are sending copies of this’ correspondenceto the Subcommittee’s Ranking Minority Member. As agreed with your office, we plan no further distribution of this correspondencefor 30 days unless its contents are made public before then. At that time, we will send copies to interested parties and make copies available to others upon request. This correspondence was prepared by Eleanor Johnson and Harriet Ganson, Assistant Directors, and Joan Denomme, Senior Evaluator. Please call me on (202) 612-7014if you or your staff have any questions. Sincerely yours, Carlotta C. Joyner Director, Education and Employment Issues 4 GAO/HRHS-97-116R DCPS Draft Supplemental Request Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office P.O. Box 6015 Gaithersburg, MD 20884-6015 or visit: Room 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. 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District of Columbia Draft Emergency Supplemental Funding Request for District of Columbia Public Schools
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-05.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)