Puig: School's fund balance grows to more than $4 million

By Robert Morales —

CCAISD Superintendent Marc Puig announced on Monday night during a regular board meeting that the district has a little over $4 million in the fund balance, the highest dollar amount the district has ever had in the bank.

Mr. Puig said that although the district's financial situation had vastly improved, he urged caution in spending and responsibility related to taxpayer dollars. Nonetheless, the district is in need of some major purchases, such as a new bus, and he saidthat the district will begin the purchase process soon.

The good financial news was obviously welcomed by trustees, but to get to this point, they made some tough choices, primarily by accepting Mr. Puig's recommendation for a Reduction in Force and the consolidation of junior high and high schools into one campus.

Previous administrations either ignored or were ignorant of the importance of fiscal duties. The previous two administrations had no problem asking trustees to approve a deficit budget. Since Mr. Puig's tenure at CCAISD, he has regularly preached sound steardship of taxpayer monies. As he saw it, either the board make some hard choices, or the district would sink into financial chaos – something trustees were unwilling to let happen.

Now, Mr. Puig and the school board have a major mountain to climb by convincing voters to approve a bond issue next year. It is still too premature to discuss numbers, but Mr. Puig and the board know that to make it palatable to voters, a good deal of discussion will be required to educate the voters about the needs of the schools.

Last week, the Advocate reported about the tax increases if a bond issue was approved by taxpayers. For example, if a $10 million bond passed, a homeowner with a $50,000 (valuation) home would pay an additional $76.87 per year. A homeowner with a $100,000 house would pay an additional $188.68 per year.

In other action, trustees approved the sale of property (Lots 9 and 10, Block 105, Van Horn) to Mario Balcazar Jr. in the amount of $2,020.

Also, trustees approved selection of Claycomb Associates as the architectural firm of record for any improvements, repairs or new construction related to a bond issue. According to Mr. Puig, the selection of an architect does not require a competitive bidding process; however, the process that is recommended is a Request for Qualifications.

Mr. Puig and Board President Paul Uranga have been working together for 15 months to thoroughly vet the selection of an architect. Mr. Puig said that over the last year and a half, he and Mr. Uranga have interviewed four major firms. Trustees had an opportunity to review the qualifications of O'Donnell and Roberts about a year ago. The other firms included Parkhill Smith & Cooper and SHW.

After reviewing the firms' credentials, Mr. Puig decided to have the board look more closely at Claycomb Associates.

“We think Claycomb is the best firm suited for our needs because of the personalized attention they gave us,” said Mr. Puig. “They spent a lot of time walking the facilities. Also, they have a hands-on approach. What sets them apart, I think, is sitting down with teachers and principals during the design process. Finally, Claycomb is the only firm that has a partnership with the Texas Association of School Boards.”

Mr. Puig explained that Claycomb will not get paid unless a bond issue is passed, and then a contract must be negotiated with the help of Walsh Anderson, the district's legal counsel.

“I was very impressed with Claycomb's presentation,” said Trustee Lisa Cottrell. “They seemed like they were down to earth and they understood our needs in contrast to the other firms which I didn't necessarily agree with.”