MADISON – The New Elementary School Building Committee is considering spending cuts after the town rejected a $2.4 million special appropriation to fund the project’s remaining costs.
“We need to figure out how to move forward,” committee Chair Graham Curtis said during the group’s Monday meeting.
The $61.15 million project is part of a larger $89.2 million school renewal plan, which includes improvements on Polson Middle School and Brown Intermediate School. With $18.3 million in rebates and incentives, the plan is expected to cost taxpayers about $70.9 million.
After data showed student enrollment would require additional classrooms outside the original scope of the project, the cost for the new school saw an estimated $5.9 million shortfall.
In June, the Board of Selectmen approved transferring $3.5 million from the Polson project, which was coming in under budget, to reduce the shortfall to the current $2.4 million.
But residents voted 56-215 on July 24 against moving money from the town’s unassigned fund to bridge the gap.
Board of Education Chairman Seth Klaskin told the committee on Monday that he and the school system administration recommend the four additional elementary school classrooms should still be prioritized.
“It’s most important that the building accommodate the students and student enrollment,” Klaskin said.
Adam Levitus, a senior project manager at Colliers, who is contracted to the project, said the building’s design is going forward as planned, but there are ways the committee can trim expenses to meet the $2.4 million shortfall.
“There’s still some items that we’re looking at, like landscaping, pavers, soil, how those values are carried in the bidding,” he said. “Materiality is something we always look at.”
He said the committee can also consider geothermal wells, elements used in the facade of the building, code modifications, and area calculations for a fire wall that could help save on spending.
Another option, he said, is to forego the demolition of Ryerson School, which could shift $150,000 in construction costs.
Klaskin said town officials prefer that money left over from the school renewal plan be used to raze Ryerson. Committee member Sharon Shoemaker asked if the project’s reimbursements could possibly cover the razing, but Curtis said that’s something the Bond Council would have to decide.
The Board of Education is scheduled to meet Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Office. Levitus explained if the school board decides to remove the four additional classrooms from the design plan, it could delay the project.
“It would be a significant blow to the project schedule and we’d have to evaluate if staying on schedule would even be practical,” he said.
Shoemaker added that changing the plans now would be a blow to the budget as well.
“We’d have to pay them to change things,” she said of Tecton Architects, the firm hired to design the school. “You don’t want to do that.”
“It’s hard to turn the ship that quickly, and there would be ramifications,” he said.