In early February, Fort Bend ISD staff delivered a presentation to the board of trustees on $133 million in cost overruns in their $1.2 billion May 2023 bond program.

This month, the board voted to approve a process audit, but without much detail. 

At FBISD’s February 26 board meeting, trustees approved a “consideration and approval of process audit for cost estimation of 2023 bond projects.” The push was led by Rick Garcia, head of the board’s audit committee. Garcia also said he planned a follow-up call to discuss the scope of the audit, overall process, procedure, and costs to go back to the beginning of the bond and “figure out where some of the gaps occurred.” 

The board’s audit committee is now tasked with narrowing the scope of the audit and determining the direction, with the assistance of district staff, and then the full board will seek proposals from approved vendors to bid on the audit.

At the board meeting in early February, district staff pointed blame for the cost overruns to inflation, supply chain issues as well as miscommunication between the design and construction team and the consulting team over planning factors. 

Board Chair Judy Dae noted that emails she reviewed show that estimates for some schools were listed incorrectly for square footage. For instance, one used 100,000 square feet for a price estimate when they should have used 136,000 square feet. 

The agenda item moving the audit forward was unanimously approved by the board but did not include the firm, the price, or the scope for the audit, although that is expected to be discussed in the upcoming call.

A scope, refined by Garcia, will likely be presented at the board’s next agenda session on Monday, March 4. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.