Comptroller critical of Kendall on $25 million capital project

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 18 January 2018 at 11:02 am

Says district didn’t properly notify residents of project, and veered from scope of work approved by voters

Photo by Tom Rivers: Kendall’s capital project included a dramatic change to the exterior and front entrance of the junior-senior high school.

KENDALL – Julie Christensen, school district superintendent, on Wednesday evening responded to a recent critical audit by the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Comptroller’s Office faulted the district for not informing the public enough about the $25.2 million capital project, which stretched from 2012 to 2017.

Key findings of the audit released Jan. 5 criticized the Kendall Central School District for not properly informing district residents prior to voting on a proposition for a district-wide capital improvement project because the Board and district officials did not develop or provide the public with a formal project plan detailing the scope and related costs, the Comptroller’s Office said.

The audit also states that because bids for the project came in significantly lower than anticipated, the Board decided to expand the original scope and spend the remaining authorized appropriations.

“Project reports did not include cost information or sufficient information to allow the Board to properly monitor the project’s progress or determine whether expenditures were properly authorized, funding sources were being used properly, or sufficient funds remained,” the audit states.

The State Comptroller’s Office recommended that the district provide voters with specific information on what will be included in proposed capital projects, including detailed descriptions of the improvements to be made and the locations where work will be performed as well as ensure the district stays within the scope of a capital project, and actively monitor capital project activity.

Christensen spoke during Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. She said the audit results were frustrating as the State Comptroller’s Office, “doesn’t really understand” the process the district must follow. She said the district does not have project details when a capital project is first proposed as the expense of design work is significant and is not undertaken until after a project is approved by voters.

She also called some of the detailed expenses the Comptroller’s Office would like to see reported, “unreasonable, we may not have access to all the details,” Christensen said.

Kendall School Board President Nadine Hanlon said the Comptroller’s Office, “should let us know what our duties are when it comes to a capital project.”

The district recently held a public information meeting regarding the next capital project it would like to pursue. Christensen said that moving forward, the Board of Education will make certain to take action on budget summaries of capital projects to ensure that they are included in board meeting minutes.

In their written response to the Comptroller’s Office, Christensen and Hanlon noted the district provided the community with information about the proposed capital improvement project during a public forum in April 2013. Information about the scope and locations was posted on the district website, in the district newsletter and displayed on boards in the offices and at events beginning in Jan. 2013 and continuing through the duration of the capital project.

“The Board will continue to provide the community with information about the scope and location of work; including as much detail as possible given required design work and unforeseen conditions that may impact scope.  This information will continue to be shared at the Board meetings, on our website and in District newsletters,” Christensen and Hanlon wrote.

A written project and budget was shared with the board and monthly updates on the plan and budget was reviewed at board meetings for the duration of the project, Christensen and Hanlon wrote. “In the future, the Board will ensure that these documents are formally approved and clearly reflected in the Board minutes.”

The response noted that the capital improvement project stayed within the voter authorization of $25.2 million and, “in actuality, the District stayed below the authorized amount … The Board will continue to stay within the scope of the capital project as authorized by the voters.  The Board and District will ensure an updated project plan is available at the District Office for public review,” the District’s response states.

Additionally, the response states that Turner Construction Company and the Turner Project Manager attended most Board of Education meetings before, during and after construction to directly answer questions, and that the Board will continue to monitor project activity and individuals responsible for oversight through regular communications.

Christensen and Hanlon state that they are pleased, “the Comptroller’s Office will be developing a guidance document on Board roles and responsibilities during a Capital Improvement Project to ensure expectations are understood clearly from your office’s perspective.”

To see the Comptroller’s report on Kendall’s capital project, click here.

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