Fort Bend ISD trustees voted unanimously Feb. 26 to begin meeting with a third-party auditor to see what the district might do about the projected $132.6 million shortfall in its May 2023 bond program—which could run 11.8% over budget.

Trustee Rick Garcia, who is the board liaison to the audit committee, announced that with board approval, the committee would begin meeting with potential auditors to determine the necessary scope of the bond audit before awarding a contract to perform the actual audit.

The backstory

During their Feb. 5 meeting, district officials identified factors they said led to the shortfall, including inflation and other economic factors.

However, officials also said district personnel failed to disclose the projected shortfall in November before the district closed for winter break, and thus they were late finding out about the new projections.

Remember this?

Voters approved the district’s $1.26 billion bond package, including the $1.18 billion Proposition A, which provided funds for construction, security and other projects.

The purpose of the audit would be to reassess the construction cost overruns associated with the May 2023 bond projects—particularly the seven largest, which amount to $93.6 million:
  • Briargate Elementary School rebuild ($13.7 million over budget)
  • Mission Bend Elementary School rebuild ($13.7 million over budget)
  • Clements High School rebuild ($27 million over budget)
  • Middle School No. 16 ($24.5 million over budget)
  • Elementary School No. 55 ($9.7 million over budget)
  • Aquatic practice facility ($4.5 million over budget)
  • Transportation facility ($500,000 over budget)
Other projects contributed to the remaining shortfall amount of $39 million, as previously reported by Community Impact.

How we got here

Board President Judy Dae, who was not present for the Feb. 5 meeting when the bond shortfall was announced, said since learning of the issue, she put together a timeline of the district meetings where May 2023 bond matters were discussed.

Dae said the board had a total of 23 such meetings between Aug. 15-Dec. 11, including bond oversight committee meetings, bond budget committee meetings and weekly bonding meetings including all district leadership.

Dae said despite all the district's efforts, the shortfall occurred, and now officials must remedy the issue and rebuild trust with the community.

“As trustees, we need to understand how this could happen. I believe the first step to solve a problem is to understand the problem. So we need to have a third party ... review the process and determine what went wrong and how to prevent this from happening again,” Dae said. “I believe we owe this to the taxpayers and our community to get to the bottom of this, and I will urge all my fellow trustees to support the action item to conduct the audit on this bond.”

What else

During the meeting, citizens urged the district to improve internal and external communications regarding the bond shortfall projections and other matters related to public tax dollars.

The next FBISD board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 4 for its agenda review workshop.