If the project moves forward as planned, the 23,000-square-foot high school addition–which amounts to 4.5 percent larger than the existing 500,000-square-foot school–could be put out to bid in March. Construction could be underway in June, according to Ethan Fick of D’Huy Engineering.
"Any delays on the project will push that back," Fick told the board. "Phase one starts and we hit the ground running with boots to dirt in the summer when the students aren’t in class."The renovations call for reconfiguring the 44-year-old high school into four academies: Ninth Grade, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Fine & Performing Arts, and Business and International Studies.
The estimated $78 million price tag includes $62.5 million for project expenses and $15 million for soft costs, such as asbestos abatement, furniture and construction fees, and contingency funds for change orders, officials said.
Because the district has been planning high school renovations for nearly a decade and already submitted a feasibility study, estimates and related documents prior to the start of Act 1 Taxpayer Relief Act in 2006, the school board could levy higher taxes than would otherwise be permitted, according to Warren White, executive vice president of First American Municipals Inc.
"You can pledge the full faith and credit of the district without limit," White told the board.
Kenneth Medina, the district's director of business operations, told Patch after the meeting that the board has no plans to go beyond the Act 1 index, which permits a 1.7 percent tax increase currently.
The next step, according to Medina, is to evaluate options for 20- and 30-year bonds. Within the next six weeks, information would be sent to financial houses. From there, the district would need to receive a bond rating, which would determine the bond's interest rate.
School Board President Ralph Douglass in describing Wednesday's presentation and subsequent vote as "perfunctory," said the board "can do the project, not that we have to do the project."
"It doesn’t mean we’re spending $78 million at this point," he said.
Prior to voting, school board member Matt Grodsky asked if the $2 million grant the district is receiving for its green energy efforts could be applied to the $78 million price tag to lessen the burden on taxpayers.
School board member Wayne Lewis said that is the goal.
"Right now we have the $2 million sitting out there in case the project goes to $80," Lewis said.
Editor's note: For more information on the renovation plan and Wednesday's presentation, see the attached PDF.