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Three Prop P projects could go over budget by about $1.2 million


Bids for construction work at Blades, Beasley and Point elementary schools, if approved by the Mehlville Board of Education, could place the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program projects over budget by $1.2 million.

District officials have been able to offset that number by $312,800, bringing the amount of money that might have to be taken out of the district's Proposition P contingency funds for construction work to $896,440.

Certificate of participation contingency funds currently total $832,760 — which would leave $63,680 as the only budgeted buffer money for the four remaining projects for Proposition P, if the board approves these numbers Monday night — after the Call went to press.

Voters in November 2000 approved a 49-cent tax-rate increase to fund Proposition P, then estimated to cost nearly $68.4 million. However, the Board of Education last September adopted a revised Proposition P budget totaling more than $86.7 million.

Final budget figures for the three Proposition P projects, according to Ricker, most likely will not be the same numbers that would have been presented to the board Tuesday, Jan. 27. That meeting was rescheduled because of last week's severe weather.

Instead, Ricker told the Call he anticipated lower numbers that are closer to the budgeted amounts would be submitted to the board for approval Monday, but he didn't know how much lower those numbers would be.

"Any overage is a deep concern to us and so what we're actually doing is we're going back and doing with the construction group what we call value engineering — in other words, going back and seeing what we can do to look at the design aspects of the projects to see if there are any cost-cutting measures that can be done," Ricker told the Call. "And we're still in the middle of that."

Projections presented to the board in December by the McCarthy Construction Co., the Proposition P construction manager, showed that total work at Blades Elementary was estimated at $1,420,255, which would have been $194,226 over budget.

But current figures, based on actual bids, reveal that, if board approved, would be $555,818 over budget with total costs coming in at $1,781,847, according to district documents. The total budget for construction costs at Blades Elementary, according to the budget revised in September, is $1,226,029. Through a Missouri Department of Natural Resources loan, however, the district has been able to offset costs by $82,000 for the school, which means district officials still have to decide how they will fund the extra $473,818 in unanticipated costs.

Projections presented to the board in December revealed that total work at Beasley Elementary was estimated at $1,217,785, which would have been $215,908 over budget. But current figures, based on actual bids, reveal that, if board approved, would be $171,620 over budget with total costs coming in at $1,173,497, according to district documents.

The total budget for construction costs at Beasley Elementary, according to the budget adopted in September, is $1,001,877. The district has been able to offset costs by $66,800 for the school through a Missouri Department of Natural Resources loan, however the district still has to decide how it will fund the extra $104,820 in unanticipated costs.

Estimates presented to the board in December by McCarthy also showed that total work at Point Elementary was estimated at $1,188,675, which would have been $128,121 over budget. But current figures, based on actual bids, reveal that, if board approved, would be $481,802 over budget with total costs coming in at $1,542,356, according to district documents.

The total budget for construction costs at Point Elementary, according to the budget revised in September, is $1,060,554. Through a Missouri Department of Natural Resources loan, however, the district has been able to offset costs by $164,000 for the school, which means the district still has to decide how it will fund the extra $317,802 in unanticipated costs.

McCarthy Construction would be working "feverishly," Ricker said, until the afternoon of the board meeting Feb. 2 to determine if the district had an opportunity to trim the project costs through value engineering.

In the meantime, Ricker said, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Randy Charles, who also serves as the district's chief financial officer, would examine the Proposition P budget's cash-flow situation to see what effect the proposed overages would have on the budget as a whole and its allotted contingency funds.

"If it ends up exactly the way it is, and I don't think that it will, this will dip into our contingency almost to the end," Ricker said. "And at this point in time that's not acceptable, so that's why we're going back to see what we need to do ... It would mean that if any of the other (remaining) projects went over, there wouldn't be contingency available. Now, that just means in the budget the way it is."

Remaining projects to be performed as part of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program are Forder, Hagemann and Rogers elementary schools and a new early childhood center.

"That doesn't mean that we aren't continuing to generate funds with the 49 cents ... That's kind of how when it (the estimated revenue received from the certificates of participation) went from ... $68 (million) to $72.4 (million) ... and to the $86 (million) ... that money was being generated from the 49 cents that's what enables the district to purchase those projects. If you look at those projects, from the beginning to now, pretty much every one of them is over budget. And the contingency money was used to deal with that. The reestablishment of the budget in September was to establish a budget with contingency ..."

He added, "The thing we don't have control over is who bids our projects or how much or how little they bid on our projects. We would love to have every project bid out with great competition on the bids and have every project, under the bid process, come in under our budget figure. We would love for that to happen.

"But we're also very dependent on the estimates we get from McCarthy and from DHA (Dickinson Hussman Architects). We want those estimates to be as accurate as possible as well because if the estimates are accurate, then we can predict what we need to have to fund the program under budget. If the estimates are accurate and then there are other conditions in the bidding process and they come in higher, then we have to deal with that,'' the superintendent added.

When projects go over budget, Ricker said the district goes back and evaluates whether the work proposed is going beyond the intent of the first phase of the facilities master plan.

"We've done nothing to this date that has been less than the master plan," Ricker said. "In some cases in some of our projects in the past, prior to me being superintendent, we went over on some of those projects that did other things, additional things ... that added some scope to the work.

"These projects, Beasley, Blade and Point, are exactly what Prop P expects. There's no additional stuff. So we are looking at design issues right now,'' he added.

Board members also were scheduled Monday night to consider a resolution that would offer the district's support to the Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools, of which Mehlville is a member and serves as the group's fiscal agent, in a current lawsuit that challenges the state's funding formula for education — its equity and adequacy.

The Committee for Educational Equality, made up of districts that primarily are on the formula, filed the suit, but the Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools plans to intervene in the lawsuit, representing the interests of primarily hold-harmless districts. State funding for Mehlville and other hold-harmless districts has been frozen since 1993.

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