A Marcy Open parent and reader of this blog emailed me last week, asking if I could check out Minneapolis Public Schools’ plans for a new headquarters building. She raised a good point — why is the district pursuing this plan while they are facing a $28 million deficit (2009-2010 school year) and is saddled with excess classroom capacity and empty buildings?
I had interviewed Steve Liss, MPS’ Chief of Operations, at the beginning of April, when the district called on developers and property owners to submit proposals to build or lease a new building for the district’s headquarters. He estimated the cost of owning and maintaining the current Educational Service Center (807 Broadway, NE) and the Webster building (425 5th Street NE) at $91 million, including $10 million for an “immediate” and badly-needed replacement of the ESC’s roof and sewer system.
That’s $10 million less than the next-cheapest option (pdf, table on pg. 2), leasing 1010 Metrodome Square for $101 million over 30 years.
In the report to the Board of Education, linked above, MPS identifies the three most attractive options for the next 30 years:
- consolidating district administration in the ESC and the Webster building and remodeling the ESC to update the office space ($107 million)
- leasing 1010 Metrodome Square ($101 million to lease / $110 million to buy)
- building a new headquarters
Liss was careful to characterize the Request for Proposals as a fact-finding exercise, saying no action would be taken at least until August at the earliest, although proposals from developers are due June 4th. He also claimed that it would not impact MPS’ budget for at two more years, although “there may be some planning money” in budgets for the next two years.
However, based on the tennor of our conversation, and the presentations to the Board of Education, it seems safe to assume that Liss and MPS seem to view the current arrangement – consolidation in the Webster and ESC buildings – as a real “last resort” option, even though it’s the cheapest.