Editor’s Note: The Dayton Public Schools Board of Education recently approved a plan to spend more than $60 million addressing some of the district’s most pressing needs. This story looks at one of those spending priorities. Go here for the full story on the strategic plan.
Dayton Public Schools plans to spend $51 million over the next three years on repairs and maintenance of school buildings that are between seven and 13 years old. The district’s school buildings were replaced in the 2000s through a comprehensive rebuilding effort funded by both the state of Ohio and Dayton schools taxpayers.
“For several years before I got here, and before Dr. Burton was in charge of operations, preventative maintenance was not done. It was reactionary – just fix what we needed to fix,” DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said. “You cannot maintain a building that’s used every day – and some of our buildings are almost 24-7-365 – and keep them up to par without some type of preventative maintenance plan in place.”
Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton last month identified three areas as having the greatest need and highest costs — roofs, parking lots and HVAC systems. But she did not specify at which schools those items were needed. The spending plan the school board approved May 28 said the majority of the facilities money would be spent on “high-priority items” that were recommended in a review by a consultant, Four Seasons Environmental, Inc.
That 209-page report – a December update of a report from years earlier – at one point lists a “total projected maintenance budget” of nearly $17 million. The report offers specific dollar figures that every school building will need for “preventive maintenance, unplanned repair, planned repair and capital renewal” in categories ranging from HVAC to plumbing to “building envelope.”
But the report does not spell out specifics of which buildings need new roofs or new boilers or parking lots. It does not say whether roofs or long-term assets are still covered by warranties. And Four Seasons says in the report that it produced its projected maintenance budget by inputting key information about Dayton school facilities — such as square-footage and types of mechanical equipment for each building – into the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s “web tool” automated calculator.
“You need about $17 million a year to cover the things that haven’t been done over the past 10 years,” Lolli said. “We had $7 million in the budget, so we add an additional $10 million to get to that number.”
The Dayton school administration plans to spend $17 million each of the next three years “to catch up,” according to Lolli, then return to the amount Four Seasons lists for preventative maintenance – which the report says is $2.72 million.
Four Seasons’ report appears to call for an every-year budget expense of $17 million, including the hiring of more than 30 additional maintenance staff. Lolli said industry consultants often call for the hiring of many more staff than is practical. She did not say if Dayton schools would hire a certain number of additional workers.
Josh Sweigart is a member of the Investigation & Community Impact Team for the Dayton Daily News whose stories have focused on government waste, fraud, abuse and accountability. He's won several awards for investigative reporting, including an Emmy Award and numerous awards from the Associated Press Society of Ohio and Society of Professional Journalists. Contact him on Facebook or Twitter.
Josh Sweigart is an investigative reporter at the Dayton Daily News. His stories have focused on government waste, fraud, abuse and accountability in southwest Ohio, as well as the statehouse and U.S. Capitol.