With the proposed construction of a new cafeteria at the Harlan Middle/High School and renovation at the elementary school cafeteria, questions were raised about the overall cost of the project and bonding issues at a special called meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education on Thursday.
After GRW Architect Jimmy Piper advised the board the overall cost will be approximately $3.2 million, which includes his company’s fees, board member Matt Nunez said that cost was too high and he feels the school district can’t afford that amount.
“When we budget for this, there’s no leeway,” said Nunez. “You’ll not be able to come to us and say, well, we need $15,000 more, because we don’t have it. We’re not going over what we budget — we just can’t. Historically, when you present a form to people you are building for, how close does the actual construction come to that?”
Piper said sometimes the projects are over budget and sometimes the projects are finish under budget. He said the board can identify alternate items, which might be eliminated if the project looks to be over budget.
“We just want you to understand we can’t afford to be over,” said Nunez. “I’ve seen projects grow in the past and we just don’t have the money. We’re laying off teachers. We just can’t afford to go over. This number just scares me.”
Board Member Cindy Allison said she’d like to see checks and balances along the way in the project to eliminate exceeding the budget.
After Piper continued with a summary of what some costs entailed, Nunez then questioned $50,000 in sidewalk and ramp charges.
Piper responded, saying what they have now will be damaged during construction or have to be taken out for work done on foundations and other items during construction. He said the charges are to replace what they already have.
Regarding bonding issues, Superintendent C.D.Morton said there is a 2012 bond offer for school districts in the amount of approximately $300,000 over the course of 20 years.
“This is a scenario based on 500 student ADA,” said Morton. “This is what we have done on all our other projects. Last year, we were 700 (students), but this year we will end up close to 650 (students). If you take the bonding potential we already have and take advantage of this 2012 offer, plus use a local contribution based on 500 student ADA, construction costs we can do is $3,016,000.”
Allison said this will “max out our bonding capacity” and she’d like to have a “little bit more cushion.”
“Still, I’d like to preserve the integrity of the project,” said Allison.
Morton said this estimate is based on 500 student ADA and the district will receive more than that amount projected, because they currently have more than 500 students.
“We would have enough state and local dollars to do that,” said Morton. “This makes me a little nervous simply because we had the biggest student drop we’ve had from one year to the next. I have no strong assurance that won’t happen again. We can hope all we want to and we’re trying to do everything we can to get more students, but it does make me very nervous.”
Board chairman Joe Meadors asked Morton to obtain a bonding estimate based on 400 to 450 student ADA before a vote to proceed with the project is made.
The discussion was tabled after board members all agreed they would like to have another bonding scenario presented to them before they make a final decision on proceeding with the project.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 909-4147 or on Twitter @Nola_hde