The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board will get a report Monday that claims all of its elementary and middle school buildings are in poor condition and need nearly $189 million in capital improvements.

The Facility Condition Assessment, from the Cordogan Clark consulting firm, says the only building that isn’t in bad shape is the Hill administration building, where the school board meets.

The report estimates the current replacement value of the 17 district buildings at $461 million and says they need spending totaling just under $189 million in today’s dollars to eliminate building deficiencies.

The consultants say that adds up to a Facilities Cost Index, also referred to as a Facility Condition Index, of just under 41% district-wide.

The consultants say an index of less than 15% is “good,” between 15% and 30% is “fair” and anything over 30% is “poor.”

The International Facility Management Association says a Facility Condition Index of 0% to 5% is “good,” 5% to 10% is “fair,” 10% to 30% is “poor” and anything greater than 30% is “critical.”

The report comes as the school board is considering closing some schools amid forecasts of declining enrollment and excess building capacity.

At the same time, the board is hoping to build a new school in Evanston’s 5th Ward, a project the consultants estimate would cost $40 million, despite forecasts that it would decrease racial diversity.

The condition report shows decades of deferred maintenance by the school system, with buildings constructed about a century ago in roughly similar sorry shape to ones built in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the district’s latest budget projections show it spending less than $1.6 million on capital improvements in each of the next five school years and facing budget deficits during that period totaling more than $26 million.

The projections also show the district’s reserves falling below the recommended level of 25% of annual operating expenses by the 2026-27 school year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. After everyone called them out for being able to build a school in the 5th ward by re-working the budget and dumping all the equity stuff. They probably cooked up this report to be like yea no matter what the town does we are going to take our radical agenda and leave everything in the dust.

  2. It sounds like the operating budgets for each our schools are not realistic. A budget needs to include monies allocated for future expenses, reservesfor capital improvement as well as annual, or regular maintenance. Without planning for these, you have a recipe for disaster. Older buildings can be magnificent in their construction but they need attention. I live in a 1895 single family home that was in disrepair when I bought it in 1998. Since that time, I have lovingly improved it and brought it back to life. But it takes discipline, planning, regular care and monies invested to keep it running efficiently, and to become great.

    The school’s budget needs to not only fund teachers and administrator salaries, but needs to balance those expenses with the running of the building itself. It sounds like all the monies that District 65 has received from the State, from real estate taxes primarily, have been utilized inefficiently. This is poor planning, and nothing else. There is no excuse.

    I manage a 22 unit apartment building in Chicago, for over 40 years, for my family, as well as owning a large single family so I know something about property management. 10% of revenues are saved each year and allocated for capital improvements. That is outside of the regular maintenance. A new roof is planned with these monies saved over a period of years, new fencing for the parkway, a five year window replacement project, and a porch replacement at the rear.

    So, it sounds like raises took precedence over consideration of capital improvements. That is irresponsible accounting and management. Evanston always hires these consultants because no one is able to see the truth themselves without an outsider telling them. That is also disappointing that the truth is not obvious. We have a limited amount of money to work with and we need to learn to act responsibly in determining who and what that money should be allocated to. Runaway salaries for superintendents is a problem, and irresponsible. Everyone can be paid fairly without avoiding fiscal responsibility. I think it is too easy to spend someone else’s money. We as a city need to start looking at the coffers as hard earned money that comes to us from our resident tax payers who own real estate. Our budgets need to incorporate a full display of all the costs relevant to running a school. If it is determined that the cost as compared to the demand for a school to be open favors closing, that is a fiscal issue, that is unfortunate, but due to the cumulative lack of investment over many decades by District 65.

    Consolidation happens in business every year. It is a fact of life. If the trends towards lower birth rates or parents choosing to send their kids outside of the district schools increase, then that trend is our reality. We can’t fight that but we can do a much better job of planning for the future. Some ideas are: solar panels to lower costs for electricity. The federal government is giving tax credits to offset the cost of the capital improvement but the long term benefit is an annual savings and good for the environment. Low E glass windows are also a good insulated and help to lower heating and cooling costs. And simply doing proper maintenance will save money in the long run by not waiting for a disaster to ensue. Rodding out your sewer line before it backs up in your basement is always better, for example.

    Better, honest planning with real numbers, for future outlays. Then, we might be able to stop spending monies that we don’t really have.

  3. I recall a huge tax increase to pay for facility repairs. What happened with those funds? Is preventive maintenance not on their radar?

    I contacted both Haven Middle School and District administration to alert them to ivy growing up Haven’s brick exterior that should be removed, as it can lead to expensive repairs (learned from my parents’ brick home). Nobody returned my calls.

  4. Seems like we need a second opinion from a consulting firm that is not affiliated in anyway with D65 administration. The estimates smell like a ripoff.

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