5 Common Traps of Bond Projects

Posted on Jul 28, 2017 9:46:09 AM

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If you
had a successful November bond initiative, you’re probably starting to receive the actual funds and are kicking off your bond projects. You might be working on construction, starting to realize the valuation of those bonds, and prioritizing work based on how those funds are coming in. You might also be working with facilities, bond specialists, and other key stakeholders (like financial officers, principals, and superintendents) to ensure that you can finish what you’ve started. The trick is to influence actual change without running out of money halfway through the process.

Regardless of where you are in bond disbursement, here are some issues you may be dealing with:

It’s a Matter of Alignment

There’s always a struggle between the timing of fund disbursement and when your projects need to begin. This is partly because a 30-year bond will typically be dispersed over 10. Take school construction, for example. The work may be planned for the summer to avoid the classroom and traffic disruptions of renovations during the school year, but that doesn’t mean your bond funds will be available during the summer time. You may have to carry some of that construction into the school year. This means you need backup plans in place to ensure students can continue learning while your renovations are completed. This is just one example of how the length of the bond disbursement may not align with your plans.

Squirrels Aren’t Free

While the original bond included sufficient funding for your proposed projects, there are several roadblocks (which we’ll discuss later) that could prevent you from receiving the expected amount or that could render the amount insufficient. And let’s face it, it seems there are always three to four times more projects than you actually have funding to complete. If you haven’t properly planned, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new technology or trend, only to wind up starting projects that you can’t finish. The key here is to prioritize and juggle funds based on predetermined priorities (and stick to those projects as closely as possible) despite the ever-changing climate of education.

The Problem with Evolution

Technology is an amazing tool and a valuable contributor to today’s educational process. One downside, however, is that it’s constantly changing. This means that the price of your chosen technology may increase between the planning stage and project execution, forcing your team to scramble and make up the difference. For example, just a few years ago, a digital classroom included a projector and a smartboard. Today, that concept has grown into a flexible learning space that includes multiple screens and flexible furniture. The goals are similar, but the technologies have evolved (and the difference in the two price tags is significant). The worst thing that can happen is that you finish half the project or that some students get the “new” technology, while other students get the “old” technology. This should be considered early on in the process, may require a contingency plan, and must be avoided at all costs.

The Only Thing Constant is Change

One of the challenges with the long-term life cycle of bond fund disbursement is that it’s likely to be accompanied by turnover of key stakeholders like principals, superintendents, or CTOs. These new staff members might have different ideas or priorities for student development. Plus, as we already discussed, technologies are likely to change, meaning the systems you had originally planned to implement may be outdated or replaced with a newer (and more expensive) version. Finally, in today’s competitive climate, where parents “vote with their feet,” technology can make the difference in whether or not your district reaches its ADA goals. The only thing constant is change, especially over the long period of the bond process. Planning to navigate some changes along the way is key to a successful bond process.


You should always anticipate incidentals, which can include ongoing costs like training, licensing, sustainability plans, the staff required to manage the implementation and execution of your technology, etc. If you find that you don’t have enough resources to handle the auxiliary necessities, it’s probably because you started with a list of things and didn’t plan for contingencies. A solid plan will help you avoid unexpected “surprises,” but you should be prepared to adjust for new issues that are bound to arise as you execute on your bond plan.

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