The scoreboard story. A window into CISD

My last position in Corporate America was the head of Finance and Business Administration. Despite being in charge of half a billion dollars in P&L, I didn’t have the authority to approve any expenses greater than $20,000 because the decision to make large purchases was based on processes and defined authority.

On April 5, 2021, during the School Board meeting, the Board was presented with the "Dragon Stadium Video Scoreboard and Sound System Replacement Project".

The proposal states "The current video scoreboard at Dragon Stadium was installed when the 2009 Bond Program stadium renovation occurred". "The aging equipment has already experienced performance issues at home football games and special events, creating a deteriorating fan experience and generating questions about the replacement cycle for a new scoreboard." The proposal was to purchase a new scoreboard for $1.2 million.

Let's analyze the stated reasons for the request to replace the scoreboard:

The existing scoreboard is obsolete because the expected life is 10 years (per manufacturer). A quick search will reveal that life expectancy is between 10-15 years, depending on usage. During the presentation, the Board was told there is nothing wrong with the scoreboard but there have been issues with the sound system which appears to be a separate system!

Let's assume that we want to replace our existing scoreboard. District policy requires that they obtain three quotes and a vendor is selected based on these bids. But the district is not proposing REPLACING the existing scoreboard, which has a dimension of 20x35 feet. If you listen very closely the proposed "replacement" is FOUR times larger, with a dimension of 66x43 ft. The price tag for this scoreboard is $1.2M.

This should not be labeled a replacement; this is a significant capital investment for an upgraded scoreboard.

It disappoints me that the Board is being put into a corner with comments like "the scoreboard is obsolete and we urgently the new one by graduation time, so parents can see the face of their student on a bigger screen". Emotions should never be part of the decision-making process when making large purchases!!!

If we want to upgrade to a larger size screen, then let's work in collaboration with the Finance & Budget Committee to review bids and develop a proper justification that makes sense.

We need to make Policy changes so that financial decisions that were not considered in approved Budgets are first approved by our CFO, and our CFO should collaborate with his Finance committee to assist him with this task.

The pattern of presenting projects to the board without a clear financial justification of the investment, a clear return for the investment, and cash flow is very concerning to me. This is an example of a clear "disconnect" between expectations and the reality of our district's financial situation. In the last few months, we have seen an increase in the budget for legal fees, a reduction of 11 teacher positions for next year, and the addition of a new assistant superintendent position. Where are our long-term financial priorities? Can we see the full list of what else is on the horizon so we can prepare? If we can not prepare financially at least we can prepare emotionally because watching teaching positions being cut while asking for an upgraded scoreboard is too much.

Let me help the district out a little bit. If we want a 4 times larger screen then let's work on the financial justification.

We need the following information:

1. Incremental revenue generated by a larger screen. How many additional sponsors will be interested? Do we have signed commitments with existing sponsors that they will renew their agreements even if their brand is no longer displayed 100% of the time?

2. Incremental maintenance. The service contract will also increase, we need to know how much more this will cost! Has this cost already been considered in the budget or will we have to cut more teaching positions?

3. Does the existing scoreboard have any residual value? It appears to work, and aftermarket providers and tier 2 maintenance companies should be interested in buying it.

4. Should we look into other vendors that commit to a 15-year product life instead of 10?

My humble opinion is that we can not afford to rush to approve an upgrade. Let's wake up and focus on the real issues at hand.

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