Florida Keys News
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
School Board talks furloughs and HOB fees

Monroe County School Board members likely will vote unanimously this evening to rescind the seven furlough days imposed on its employees in 2011.

A decision about whether the school district will pay the fees of a former construction supervisor may prove more contentious, however, when the board meets tonight in Key West.

The district announced last week that the furloughs, which many observers have likened to a pay cut, would be done away with, once and for all, for all 940 district employees. Several School Board members, including District 3's Ed Davidson have been openly pushing for their repeal. Davidson said last week that he would not vote to renew any furlough days.

"I would remind all of our employees and their families that it was their neighbors, and the School Board, who bought back the seven furlough days, and not the governor, who only kicked in 10 percent," Davidson said.

Superintendent Mark Porter on Friday expressed confidence that the board would follow his recommendation and vote to abandon the furloughs, which were adopted as a cost-cutting measure during tighter budgetary times.

"I have absolutely no doubt that the board will approve with enthusiasm, the decision to repeal the furloughs," Porter said.

"However, they do have the final say, which is why it's coming up for a vote. I am quite confident that the board is eager to do this on behalf of all our employees."

Less certain, however, is how Porter's recommendation to cut a check to Bill Sprague for construction manager services related to the construction of the new Horace O'Bryant School, will fly.

Porter wants the board to approve a $14,000 payout, related to an invoice for $27,910 that Sprague submitted in June. Sprague claimed that his contract entitled him to two percent of savings realized during the construction project.

At the time, however, Davidson led the charge to send the matter back to the drawing board, citing fuzzy math, and a lack of adherence to the terms of Sprague's contract.

"That's way too much," Davidson said. "The total claimed savings on the project were $2,004,296. Sprague's claimed two percent commission is $40,085.92. But from the aggregate $2,004,296, the savings claimed in change order 49, in Phase 1, in the amount of $608,755, should be subtracted, because Sprague wasn't in charge then. Next, because Sprague's contract clearly states that he's only entitled to net savings, we have to also subtract the 40 percent commission we already paid to the contractor in the amount of $801,718. That leaves a balance commissionable to Sprague of only $593,823. Two percent of that is just $11,876, and he's already been paid $12,175 which should not have occurred because the project wasn't done.

"Somebody's going to have to explain to me why that math isn't correct," Davidson said.

Porter on Friday maintained that Sprague should be paid immediately, and any investigation into possible overpayment taken care of later on during the forensic audit that is planned to look into the HOB construction.

"I respect the fact that Capt. Ed [Davidson] has dug in and looked at the contract from his perspective," Porter said. "Obviously, there is some dispute over the interpretation of this contract. However, it's our contract. We're the ones who drafted it, and ought to be able to interpret it. I do think that it's appropriate that we issue a partial payment at this time. We'll gain some insight following the completion of the audit process."

Also on Tuesday, the board will hear the superintendent discuss his Strategic Plan, which is set to be approved in October, and the Common Core Curriculum Standards coming into force next year.

The board meets at 5 p.m. this evening at the district's administration building on Trumbo Road in Key West.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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