BY ROBERT MORALES
CCAISD trustees voted unanimously on Monday to approve renovations and improvements to Eagle Stadium. Prior to taking several votes related to this agenda item, Superintendent Marc Puig went through a deliberate process of explaining the intricacies and the legal processes involved in getting this project off the ground.
The first of these processes includes approval of a procurement method. Although there are several procurement methods available to school districts, some of them are not amenable for a project of this size. For example, competitive bidding or a competitive sealed bid would not work in this instance, said Mr. Puig. “If all we were doing was painting goal posts, the competitive bid might be OK. This is a more advanced, specialized project.â€
He explained that the reason for not going with a competitive sealed bid is that this process requires the hiring of an architect to design the project, and that is not feasible.
Mr. Puig recommended what he called a “one-stop shop,â€ or the design model procurement process. This procurement method is faster, and would likely work with the same timeframe for the project, which is Aug. 1, 2014.
Although an architect must still be hired, the architect would serve only as an advisor and representative, and the architect would not handle the design of the project. However, the architectural firm ensures that the construction company is building the project exactly to specifications and within the given timeline.
The committee will review six criteria, but can choose only five to move to Phase II. Mr. Puig said that Phase II is a matter of execution, or putting it another way, can the firm do the project on time, within specifications and within budget?
To find a suitable firm, the board will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) which will be advertised immediately. After finding a competent firm, trustees will proceed to a Request for Proposals (RFP). Additionally, he pointed at the positives in having new and improved stadium facilities. Years ago, when the track was in good condition, schools from the area came to Van Horn to participate in their track meets.
Having track meets here means that the district would receive revenue from ticket sales and concessions. Also, local restaurants and hotels would see a net benefit from the overnight stays that includes students, parents and others who come to the meets.
As for academics, Mr. Puig said that he is very mindful of what a bond issue can bring to the students in terms of providing a superiod learning environment at CCAISD. Although no definite date has been established for a bond election, Mr. Puig said it would be probably to have an election in November.
Before discussion on the stadium renovations took place, Carmen Perez, a partner at Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, gave a presentation to trustees regarding the law firmâ€™s delinquent tax collections. She explained that the firmâ€™s fiscal year for collecting delinquent taxes is July 1 to June 30.
The amount turned in for collections between July 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014 (for levy only) was $190,649. The firm began working on the new levy as well as previously uncollected taxes. From July 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014, Linebarger collected $95,381.49. From March 1 through June 30, 2013, Linebarger collected $244,941.
Linebarger sent notices to 1, 695 accounts during the new year, and this includes property owners that have more than one account. The firm did another mailing in December, covering 1,200 accounts, with a delinquent amount of $379,000. Ms. Perez said the notices are a “precursor to litigation.â€ She said that the notices tend to motivate certain delinquent taxpayers to call the office. In certain cases, the entire delinquent bill is paid; in other cases, the owner makes payment arrangements. Linebarger monitors the payment agreements.
Ms. Perez said that in certain instances, payment arrangements were made only after a lawsuit was filed. However, she stressed that even those persons who are on a payment arrangement may still end up in court to secure a judgment.
Once the total amount of delinquent taxes is paid, the firm will request that the judgment be released.
“We work with taxpayers at every stage â€“ from pre-litigation to judgment stage,â€ said Ms. Perez.
During the current delinquency period, Linebarger has filed 31 lawsuits, with a value of $194,000 in delinquencies. The amount includes levy, penalties and interest. Five of these lawsuits were dismissed because once the defendant was served, the owner-defendant paid the entire delinquency. The total amount collected for the five non-suits was $17,000.
From July 2013 through January 2014, the firm sold 11 properties at a tax sale valued at $4,121.
Ms. Perez then pointed to the top 25 delinquencies, one of which is Capitan Energy Corporation, which ows $92,000 in back taxes. She said that the firm has filed a lawsuit against Capitan Energy. The next step in the process is to go to trial.
As of Jan. 31, 2014, the total tax delinquencies are $1,007,401, which includes penalties and interest.
Last year during the same time period (July through January), Linebarger collected about $250,000. This year, Linebarger has collected only $95,000, or about 38-percent less than in 2013. There are still six months remaining in the fiscal year, during which time the firm may be able to collect at least the same amount as it did in 2013.
In other action, Mr. Puig said CCAISD had received an award from Claims Administrative Services for “the most improved loss ratio in 2012-2013.â€ He said that the district is doing a good job administratively, making sure costs are kept down. In addition, the district will receive a $500 scholarship. Mr. Puig said he would gather the criteria necessary for the scholarship before May so that students can apply.