Frequently asked questions about school bond projects
General bond questions
- It seems like ASD always has school bonds on the ballot, why is that?
- The district took a "bond holiday" in 2010. In response to community feedback, no school bonds were put on the ballot.
ASD's mission is to educate students for success in life. Maintaining quality school facilities is essential to the support of this mission. This is no small task for a school district among the 100 largest in the U.S. The district owns 87 schools and six support facilities, consisting of more than 7.7 million square feet of space, at a present value of about $2.4 billion. A quality school's functional life without major renewal ranges from between 30 years to 50 years. For 87 schools, this would require the district to present bond ballot propositions for two to three major renewals every year. This does not consider that many schools were built during the 1960s and 1970s at a time of pronounced population growth; they are now candidates for renewal.
- Why is the district requesting voter approval of bond issues at a time of economic uncertainty?
- One reason is that the school district is a "forever" owner of school facilities. The district is a steward of the taxpayers' investment. This stewardship includes continual responsibilities, some of which are:
- design and construct facilities with durability,
- care for facilities through preventative maintenance and a committed custodial program,
- extend facilities' functional life so long as it remains cost effective,
- reconfigure existing facilities to support changing educational programs and their technologies, and
- design flexibility into new and renewed facilities to accommodate education changes over a facility's 50-year life.
Another reason is that the state has committed to project reimbursements of 60-70 percent. This means taxpayers only have to pay 30-40 cents on the dollar for projects that are funded through the bonding process. Projects funded through other means do not qualify for debt reimbursement. For example, if the district were to pull funds from its regular operating budget, the state would not reimburse the district for those project costs.
- How does ASD determine what parts of a building need to be overhauled?
- Building components wear out. Facility systems only last so long. Roofs deteriorate and leak; heating, plumbing and ventilation systems wear out, parts are no longer available to support older systems and structural systems age. Various code changes require updating electrical and mechanical systems; providing access for persons with physical disabilities; removing hazardous materials and renewing various building system components. Moreover, significant renewals often require structural upgrades to meet more stringent building codes.
Change demands updates
Functional obsolescence is another fact of life for older schools. Over the life of a school, programmatic changes take place that demand updating the facility infrastructure. For example, there is continual need to update the electrical distribution systems in the schools to accommodate current technology. Current educational delivery methods require physical layouts that are often different and more flexible than those of 30-40 years ago.
Effective operation and maintenance programs are a critical component to extending the life of buildings, sites, systems and equipment and for maintaining and providing a quality building environment for the instructional programs.
Facility Condition Index now used
All ASD buildings are in the process of undergoing facility condition assessments. The assessments serve as a basis for determining priorities and costs of facilities' capital needs, and are used for both short term and long term planning purposes. The assessment process includes a field assessment where building system components are evaluated based on condition and age of the system. Results of the initial assessment identify system requirements, along with their corrective action and costs to implement. The next step includes data entry into the database, and concludes with validation of the data by district staff which provides quality control and incorporates institutional knowledge on the collected information.
Once this process is complete, a facility condition index is calculated to provide a comparison of the relative condition of a facility and/or system to others. It is a ratio of the cost to correct capital needs arising within the next four years divided by the replacement cost of a facility. A site with an FCI less than .30 is generally considered in excellent, good and average condition, which is the district's target in order to maintain the general physical condition of ASD's physical plant. A site with an FCI higher than .30 is considered in poor or crisis condition.
Some facility systems identified as problems in this process do not require immediate replacement. Just because a key building component like a roof or boiler has reached the end of its anticipated useful life does not necessarily mean they have failed. In some cases, those systems can continue to function for many additional years.
The FCI cannot be used as the sole determinant of capital project prioritization. Other factors such as educational functionality and attendance projections must be included as well.
Check the last column of facility condition and educational adequacy indices for the current FCI status of ASD schools. Buildings with a score less than .30 are generally considered to be in average condition or better. Sites with an FCI higher than .30 are top candidates for major work.
- How does the district determine projects for bond proposals?
- The district develops a six-year Capital Improvement Plan. This serves as a guide for future capital bond request ballot propositions. Projects are selected for the CIP based on evaluation of several factors:
- site and facility conditions based on FCI ranking (see previous question)
- assessment of facilities' ability to meet districtwide educational specifications
- enrollment history and projections
- input from the community on its educational goals and need
- project scopes and cost estimates
This information is analyzed and evaluated by the Facilities department, district administration and the superintendent. Proposed projects and their priorities are then included in a draft CIP.
The CIP is reviewed by a Capital Improvement Advisory Committee comprised of public representatives. This community-based citizens group meets regularly to review facility needs and recommend bond propositions to the superintendent. The superintendent recommends the CIP to the Anchorage School Board for approval. The board holds a public hearing and then acts on the recommendations. The CIP is also reviewed by the municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, and submitted to the Anchorage Assembly.
The school board and district administration provide extensive project information to the assembly. The assembly has authority to change proposed bond issue projects before approving them to be placed on bond ballot propositions.
- What is the expected life of the various components of a school building?
- Ongoing maintenance and upkeep can extend the life of a school. Building materials and equipment are selected with regard to cost and durability. For example, carpet that will last about 20 years is typically selected over cheaper carpet which will have to be replaced more often and end up being more expensive over time. The expected life of school components is shown below.
- Roof, 20-30 years
- Plumbing valves, 15 years
- Paint, 7 years interior, 10 years exterior
- Asphalt, 20 years
- Hockey rinks, 10 years
- Carpet, 20 years
- Fencing, 20 years
- Floor tile, 20 years
- Lights, 20 years
- Boiler, 30 years
- Cabinets, 25 years
- Fans, 30 years
- Intercoms, 20 years
- Gym floors, 30 years
- Fire alarms, 20 years
- Playgrounds, 20 years
- Ceiling tiles, 20 years
- Door hardware, 25 years
- Window treatment, 20 years
By the time a building is 25-30 years old, all major components should have been replaced.