The districts 10-year, $3.5-billion bond program is backed by hotel and property taxes. Since its approval by voters in 1998, development on the Strip and skyrocketing land values have helped boost funding levels to $4 billion. Although the program initially called for 88 new schools and numerous upgrades, it has delivered 90 schools and $361-million in improvements to date.
The district has compressed its planning and construction process from five years to 33 months. Change orders are running at 3.5%, half of which are for offsite improvements and utilities. It also has deferred construc-tion monies for 23 fu-ture schools. "We want to avoid any lapses in planning, design and construction between bond programs," says Fred C. Smith, the district's construction manager.
In 2008, it will ask voters for a 10-year tax-freeze to continue school construction. The district hopes to build 138 new schools by 2018 when enrollment is projected to reach 525,000 students.
The construction program now earns passing grades, but it wasnt always so. In 1995, the district hired Parsons, Pasadena, Calif.; Fleming Corp., St. Louis; and Taylor International Corp., Las Vegas, to oversee a $605-million bond program. The move was intended to buffer criticism of a 1988 bond program that produced only 57 of 77 promised schools. The partnership finished the work early, but came in $24.4 million over budget.
Bypassed for the current bond, Parsons-Fleming-Taylor filed suit in 1999, claiming that scope-of-work additions by the owner led to cost overruns. The district paid a $3.5-million settlement and returned construction management duties in-house. It subsequently reached out to contractors to foster "more of a partnership," says Frank E. Martin, president of local Martin-Harris Construction Inc.
The district began prequalifying contractors and subcontractors and began paying faster with less retainage. It also began using prototype plans to speed permitting and familiarize contractors with building schemes and encourage more competitive bidding.
Despite the successes, the district still faces major hurdles like finding school sites. Property prices have increased over 800% since 1998 and now run up to $900,000 an acre. Additionally, the district competes with the Strip and housing markets for labor. "The pressure is on each and every year to bring schools online on-time and on budget," Smith says.he Clark County School District is building at a breakneck pace to keep up with runaway growth in the Las Vegas Valley. The county has the nations fifth largest school district with 295,650 students and is adding 15,000 more each year.