L.A. Community College District Bond Measure Stirs Criticism

The Los Angeles Community College District swayed voters in 2016 to approve a $3.3-billion construction bond measure to renovate outdate campuses at the largest two-year college system in the country.

The district promised there would be “strict accountability” over public funding, stating it had improved the substantial financial waste, bias and mismanagement that afflicted projects funded with previous bond measures.

However, the implementation of the latest construction bond has stirred criticism, resulting in lawsuits, political friction and missed performance targets, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Jacobs Project Management Co., the supervisor of the construction bond program, has overspent its first-year budget by $1.8 million. Jacobs Project Management won the five-year, $85.9-million contract from the LA Community College District in 2017.

According to an audit conducted by KPMG LLP, the company failed to deliver services, such as written plans on how it planned to manage the program and a website for it. The audit also found that Jacobs Project Management has not created an adequate process to estimate costs, has not established a central database to track information of that type and has not ensured that any changes made to the estimated costs were properly authorized.

District chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez said he continues to be confident that the multitude of reforms the district has adopted since 2011 would head off any additional issues with the bond program, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Am I concerned that we’re off to a bad start? No,” Rodriguez said in an interview. “All that was addressed in the performance audit has been — or can be — remedied quickly and efficiently.”

District board trustee Steve Veres said it was too soon for any major worries. The contract allows Jacobs to make up for any overspending by cutting back spending in following years to continue the contracts guidelines.

“If this happens next year and becomes a trend, we will need a major correction,” Veres said of the overspending.

However, district board trustee Scott Svonkin is concerned.

“We can’t go back to the old days where we didn’t pay attention,” Svonkin said. “We have to be vigilant and fiscally responsible with every dime.”

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