The board voted unanimously to rescind its previous decision authorizing $4.55 million for renovations to a portion of Mendez Elementary School, which will allow the district to put $4.29 million back into its general fund balance.
Plans for a new office location were sparked in late 2017 after air quality tests evidenced mold at the central administration building on South LBJ Drive. After considering several options for relocation, trustees voted in February 2018 to renovate a part of Mendez Elementary School, located 1805 Peter Garza Drive, to house the district’s central office.
Trustees had approved the project, but Superintendent Michael Cardona said previously unexpected costs related to renovating the elementary school would require additional funding—something his administration was not willing to ask of the school board.
In February 2019, the SMCISD board of trustees voted 4-3 to postpone their final decision on the location of the new central office building, and was considering two potential sites—the existing tract on South LBJ Drive or a 11.96-acre property at Hunter Road and Suttles Drive.
The July 15 vote voids the board’s previous approval of the price tag on the renovation project, $261,766 of which has already been spent on construction design and research, leaving $4.29 million available to return to the district’s general fund.
“We have a space that we can work around right now," Cardona said after the July 15 meeting. "I’m a taxpayer in the district too, so I want to make sure we protect that taxpayer money, and we need to think this through and look at our options."
SMCISD board president John McGlothlin said the decision was a “prudent” one, adding that the board’s vote reflected a shift in the administration’s expectations of when, where and how the central office would be relocated.
“The administration pulled the proposed administration building before it reached final approval of location and schematic design on account of their concerns that deficit budgets could erode our fund balance,” McGlothlin said.
For now, the district will continue leasing space at 631 Mill St. to house central administration employees. Community Impact Newspaper reported in March 2019 that the temporary office would cost the district approximately $12,000 per month in rent.
“Long term, we want to find the fit that is best for the district, but there is not an emergency,” McGlothlin said. “The place we have is a safe, healthy working environment for our staff. It’s not quite as central as where we were before, but it’s nice to have that place to go to.”
Editor's note: This post has been updated with more specific numbers.