On Sept. 23, the Alexandria School Board will hold a public hearing on funding options for T. C. Williams High School. What are the issues?
In May, City Council approved $80.5 million in funding to build a new T. C. Williams High School on the current site. The cost is now estimated to be close to $90 million in construction costs and another $12 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment. The School Board has set a target maximum guaranteed price of $87.5 million for construction costs and approximately $11 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment, bringing the target guaranteed maximum price to around $99 million.
In an interview this summer, Mayor William D. Euille explained the city’s position on T. C. Williams funding. “We have budgeted $80.5 million for the T. C. Williams project and that is what is available,” he said. “The School Board is going to have to find any additional funds in their own already approved capital budget. The city has a number of other capital projects for which we are going to need funding. There really is no other large pot of money to find.”
THE SCHOOL BOARD has proposed taking the additional $18.5 million for the project from several sources. Two options are on the table for discussion, with the school staff recommending Option 2. That option would take $10 million from the educational contingent reserve, $2.5 million each year for the next four years. This money is available through the increased sales tax that the General Assembly passed last year. The additional funds would come from deferral of the Minnie Howard project until 2009.
The other option would defer approved elementary capital projects, transfer some funds from the Minnie Howard project and also use the educational contingent reserve funds. Under this option, projects at four elementary schools would be affected. At William Ramsay this year, plumbing, HVAC, and elevator work would be deferred, saving $2,280,500. Next year, also at Ramsay, $200,000 would be saved by deferring work on a fire alarm system.
At Cora Kelly in FY2007, elevator, fire alarm and office renovations are scheduled. Deferring these projects would save $808,000,
In 2008, HVAC replacement and fire alarm work is scheduled at John Adams. Deferring this will save $1,450,000. Also, in 2008, $2,873,275 could be saved by deferring work on the fire alarm system, HVAC replacement, plumbing, elevator, parking lot and a gym addition at James K. Polk. $808,827 in savings would come from delaying some work at Minnie Howard.
“WE PREFER the option of simply deferring the entire Minnie Howard project because we believe that we can accommodate the students who will be attending that school over the next few years and the bids on the project were more than we anticipated,” said Board vice chair Mollie Danforth. “We believe that, through value engineering, we can reduce the cost of the Minnie Howard project.
“Also, elementary schools have ongoing needs and it is better not to take money from those projects. We are maintaining those schools and have done certain work at Minnie Howard to ensure that it remains a good functioning school,” she said.
Maury Elementary School will also be discussed at the Sept. 23 meeting. John D. Johnson III, assistant superintendent for financial and administrative services, prepared an analysis of the Maury project for the board. “The Maury media center/classroom project is currently under construction. The amount of the low bid was approximately $1,050,000 over budget. The construction consists of three phases but funds were sufficient for award of phases I and II only. A balance of approximately $400,000 remains in the project budget. Additional funding will be required to take all or a portion of the work in Phase III … Phase III includes renovation of five primary classrooms and the administration area plus construction of three new classrooms, two new extended learning areas, two new resource rooms and expansion of the teachers’ lounge,” he wrote.
Depending on the scope of the work performed in Phase III, the additional cost ranges from $809,318 to $1,167,000. The staff is recommending that the School Board undertake the full project, according to Johnson’s memorandum.
“We have identified funding for this project from deferral of the Minnie Howard project as well,” Danforth said. “Construction costs all around the country are going up. We are not alone in that respect.”
Members of the public who would like to speak at the Sept. 23 public hearing can call the clerk of the board, Rosemary Webb, at 703-824-6614 to sign up ahead of time or put their names on a list at the beginning of the public hearing.