Board Says ‘No More Measure E Spending’
A moratorium on all spending related to the controversial and currently litigious Measure E bond have been suspended as of the BHUSD Board of Education meeting Tuesday. The move will allow for previously authorized and outstanding invoice payment, but will not condone future spending until a proper audit can be conducted.
“We need to regain the trust of the community,” said Board member Brian Goldberg. “They entrusted us with a third of a billion dollars. This is an opportunity to take a step back.”
The moratorium resolution follows the termination of Karen Christiansen and her company Strategic Concepts, LLC, the contractor assigned to oversee the $334 million bond residents voted into effect in 2008.
The board has requested that the Citizens Oversight Committee, comprised of 12 City residents (see box at right), will be charged with conducting a financial and process and operations audit before any further decisions are made related to spending of bond monies.
“I do want to make it very clear that we are acting in a very logical fashion and that we don’t want the construction companies to lose faith in us,” said Board- member Myra Lurie. The moratorium will dually suspend future construction projects until the board can revisit the draft master plan currently in place and largely prepared by Strategic Concepts.
It was not made clear in Tuesday’s meeting how long the moratorium will be in effect.
LaTanya Kirk-Carter, a facilities consultant acting as the interim facilities director for the district, warns that this moratorium could have consequences fiscally and may compromise the quality of future work completed. Two hundred California schools passed a similar bond in 2008, including neighboring districts, therefore creating heavy bid competition in the marketplace, said Kirk-Carter. To avoid this and any possible IRS actions, Kirk-Carter suggested at the very least moving forward with the relocation Moreno High School.
“The relocation of Moreno is not a board approved project yet,” said Goldberg. “We authorized the development of schematics, but we have not approved construction and that project.
“If the vote last night does not mean we are stopping expending additional funds until we get the audits from the COC, all we did is pay lip service and have done nothing.”
Currently, the board has drawn down $72-75 million from the Measure E fund, however only about $3 million have been spent for completed projects and commissioned work, including the demolition of the Horace Mann School rotunda.
The moratorium resolution passed unanimously by the board.