By MIKE ANTHONY
On the recommendation of administrators, the Mehlville Board of Education recently delayed consideration of bids totaling nearly $4.85 million for the construction of a new Oakville Elementary School.
South Area Superintendent Tim Ricker and Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer, asked board members last week to delay consideration of the bids for the new Oakville Elementary School. On July 1, Ricker will succeed retiring Superintendent John Cary, who was absent from the May 12 meeting.
"... Really what we need to do is the administration, the designers and the construction managers need to go back and do some more work to ensure that we have the best possible bid prices through some value engineering,'' Ricker told the board. "We would like to bring this back as an action item at the next board meeting.''
The new Oakville Elementary School will be constructed as part of the Mehlville School District's $72.4 million Proposition P districtwide building improvement program. District voters in Novem-ber 2000 approved a 49-cent tax-rate in-crease to fund Proposition P.
The original budget for the construction of the new Oakville Elementary School was $5,049,000.
However, when the board approved the plans for the new school, members were informed that preconstruction estimates placed the cost of the new building at about $500,000 more than the approved construction budget. At that time, the board was informed that delaying by one year roof repair projects scheduled for the summers of 2004, 2005 and 2006, an additional $500,000 in district capital funds would be available for the project.
However, even with that additional $500,000, the total post-bid estimate ex-ceeds previously budgeted funds by more than $200,000. The McCarthy Construction Co., which serves as the Proposition P construction manager, along with Dick-inson Hussman Architects, Heideman + Associates Inc. and the district administration initially were recommending the school board approve bids totaling $4,844,162 for the new school.
But concerns about the cost led the administration to recommend postponing awarding the bids, Ricker and Charles told the board.
"Obviously it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone that we've had concern about the budget figure we established initially for Oakville Elementary, and as compared to the program needs for that building it's been one that we have wrestled with for quite a while ...,'' Charles said.
He later noted, "... What I'm going to attempt to do tonight is share with you maybe some more detail about the Prop P budget, additional capital funds that the district has available to supplement the Prop P budget over the next five years to maybe help give you a feel for the size or the significance of the concern and some of the options that are available to us for funding future projects.''
Current estimates indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate nearly $26 million more than is required to retire bond-like certificates of participation issued to fund the Proposition P improvements. Charles presented an option for funding Proposition P cost overruns and the costs of related projects that calls for spending $13.6 million — including $700,000 for the new Oakville Elementary School — of that nearly $26 million in capital funds by June 30, 2008.
To date, more than $5 million of district capital funds has been spent on Proposition P-related projects. The biggest expenditure of that $5 million in district capital funds has been $3.6 million for roof repairs.
The board-approved Proposition P budget included a contingency of roughly $3.5 million. The amount remaining in the contingency today totals less than $650,000, Charles said.
Some board members expressed concerns about whether the remaining contingency will be enough for the remainder of the Proposition P program, which continues through 2005 and includes the construction of a new early childhood center.
Board member Rita Diekemper asked, "Well, so how do we know about the $650,000 we have left, how do we know that that's going to be enough to do what we have to do?''
Charles said, "... For all the future projects we've built a 5 percent contingency in them ... So there's already site-specific contingency money set (aside) for all future projects. Even after doing so, there's still about $650,000 that's uncommitted.''
"If that's the case, then why don't we take the $700,000 that you're proposing that we attribute to additional capital funds and we use up the remaining contingency?'' board Vice President Matthew Chellis later said, referring to Oakville Elementary School.
Charles replied, "And we can do that. That would be another approach. Use up the remaining contingency and then you would have $650,000, $700,000 of district capital funds sitting over in this pot of money that you could spend later.''
Diekemper said, "OK, then we've asked this question at various times and we haven't asked it in awhile ... Are we going to be able to finish the projects that we promised to do with the money that we have to do them?''
Charles replied, "Absolutely.''
Excluding the $700,000 in additional costs for Oakville Elementary that could be funded through district capital funds, Charles later elaborated, "With $6.5 million worth of construction left to be brought to the board for review, future projects, and $650,000 of additional contingency, not only is there a 5 percent contingency built into each of these future projects, there's another 10 percent available. So where we sit right now on all future projects, there's as much as 15 percent additional Prop P money available beyond the original Prop P budget ... Can we and will we finish the projects? ... Absolutely. To do anything else is not acceptable and we're not going to let that happen.''
John Heidbreder of McCarthy Construction said, "Unless administration or the board makes a conscious decision to modify the scopes as we see them now, then yes, the money is there to finish the projects.''
Diekemper interjected, "Including the early childhood center and everything ...?''
Heidbreder said, "Correct.''