Mt. Daniel: The Two-Year, No Construction Debacle Impacting Our Littlest Students and Our Taxpayers

Twenty-Four Months of Multiple Deferrals, Finger Pointing and Bond Payments

An Inept Process the Result of Collective Hubris and and Arrogance

 

First in a Series of Three Articles

By Ira Kaylin

Kaylin is a former Member of the City Council and Co-Chair of the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee and Chair of the Economic Development Committee.

The financial and student losses generated by School Board’s mismanagement of the Mt. Daniel project, and an ineffective City Council response, continues to mount.

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Construction Should Have Started More than a Year Ago. Empty Parking Lot is Mute Testimony to a Failed Process

The School Board continues to dissemble and misdirect, taking no responsibility for its mismanagement of the project. This must end if we are ever to successfully complete the Mt. Daniel expansion for our kids.

City management has not been included in any of the discussion with the Fairfax Planning Commission—a circumstance that seems to be “okay” with our management staff. Nevertheless, the passive stance of management allows for the possibility that new mistakes could be made leaving the City, and the children that are to be served by Mt. Daniel—in an even more precarious position.

 

Fiscal Impact of the Deferral

The request for a delay ensures that Mt. Daniel students will remain in an inadequate facility for at least another year and guarantees 2 years of increased costs.

With this latest deferral we will have accumulated approximately two years of debt service payments of approximately $675,000 per year or about $1.3 million for the two years.

Other Fiscal Factors Include

  • A revised project will need to be redesigned and perhaps rebid. The cost is not yet public but could be high.
  • Significant legal expenses have already occurred and can be expected to increase.
  • If the school size reduction is accepted by Fairfax how much will it cost to find alternative facilities for the 100 displaced students and where would they attend class?
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At Least the Grass Should Be Cut

Before the First Brick Is Laid

All of these costs will be borne by all residents of Falls Church and most will occur before the first brick is laid.

The sum total of these costs will have to be made up.  Does the City plan to issue a new bond whose cost could be $2 million or more? Does the City plan to pay out of current operating costs which could lead to an automatic increase of 5 cents on the tax rate?

We, the citizens of Falls Church have been excluded from any substantive information that would inform us of what lies ahead. Moreover if City Hall Management is kept out of the information loop can any meaningful planning take place?

Next: The Bond Referendum–A Rush to Judgement with Perils Raised in Advance

7 Comments on "Mt. Daniel: The Two-Year, No Construction Debacle Impacting Our Littlest Students and Our Taxpayers"

  1. I am still waiting for an explanation from the School Board Chair as to why the contingency on this project not only is completely spent already (on a project that has not even begun) but that it is over spent by $88,000 for a total of over $165,000. Also I would like to know what the approval process was for this expenditure and in which meeting this expenditure was discussed and approved. Perhaps the Council Members can receive some answers on behalf of the community in the joint session this coming Monday. I would also like to know how much the redesign will cost and has there been a cap set on that expenditure?

  2. Stunned Observer | September 9, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Reply

    thank you for writing this article

  3. Put it in perspective this way….school officials will cost taxpayers $1.3 million in sunk debt service for this mess…and at the same time,whine about a $1 million reduction (not a true cut) in their budget request. How about reducing their next budget request for every remaining dollar in unnecessary debt service they have cost us? And I repeat my plea….don’t let or minimize the involvement of these same folks in upcoming capital projects.

    • Alison Kutchma | August 28, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Reply

      Dale: The way to make a change of the folks involved is in the voting booth in the next school board election cycle. I watched Mt. Daniel unfold and I observed the total lack of questions from school board members to Dr. Jones about many facets of the project at a time when few in the community were paying attention. It made me sick. Emails from me with substantive questions remain unanswered. We need people on the school board that are willing to ask questions; do the right thing and not worry about what their friend group says is popular, which is currently a rising trend. I sat in a meeting and listened while one SB member stated publicly their lack of knowledge on an issue so stating that they were not going to vote on that issue (fair enough) but minutes later voted on the issue. #voteswiththechaireverytime. We need people with critical thinking skills and individual informed thoughts. We do have some. We need more.

  4. June and Mike Beyer | August 26, 2016 at 4:59 am | Reply

    Thank you for keeping the Mt. Daniel issue alive, Ira. The lack of information given to our Little City regarding Mt. Daniel is unacceptable and we want answers. Where is Plan B? We’ve fooled around long enough. We agree, no passage of referendums for anything else in the City until the MD project is complete. We’ve never seen anything like this in FCCPS. Families and teachers need real information and our little ones most certainly deserve the best! Another year, another delay, another lost opportunity to correct this mess…someone needs to be held accountable and quite frankly it isn’t Fairfax County!

  5. Good topic This should be required reading by all taxpayers and residents of this City. Keep in mind the same folks involved in this badly managed project want to have a lead role in the middle and high school school rebuild. Don’t let them. Insist on other players and decision makers. Wouldn’t you think these folks involved in the Mount Daniel mess have the common decency to explain their actions and admit their mistakes? No one should vote for any more referendums, library included, until taxpayers are absolutely confident that credibility and public trust have been restored.

  6. On target again Ira. It’s a money pit that keeps getting deeper and deeper and the citizens are holding the bag .
    Thanks and I’m glad to see FCP back.

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