Increased labor and steel costs hit home

The Teton School Board is looking to shave amenities from new construction costs after Garett Chadwick with GPC Architects reported construction costs trending at 13 percent higher than the original budget set two years ago.

Half is attributable to the increase in square footage to the two new elementary schools. The school board increased the square footage of the Victor Elementary School and decreased the square footage of the Driggs Elementary School. However, adjusting the square footage accounted for a 7,500 square foot increase overall for the two new buildings. The square footage was reconfigured through work done by the building steering committees for both projects and adjusted according to enrollment projections.

Chadwick also reported that increased costs also accounted for subcontractors who are busy and are bidding the market versus for the project; and there is an increase in construction materials since the bond election specifically with the costs of steel and labor.

“The big picture, is this has happened at every school project,” said Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme at Monday’s board meeting. “We had to go through this process with every major project since we have built schools starting in 1970s.”

He pointed out that the current Driggs Elementary School is built half in brick and half in metal because costs fluctuated throughout the construction process. He remembered that the middle school that was built with a $12 million bond and required $1 million to be cut from construction costs.

School board member Delwyn Jensen said going through a cost savings process was a good exercise. “Even if we had had the money, I felt like we scrubbed the building and looked at what’s important and what’s not. We are in agreement to get that square footage and we add some things later that we don’t have to have now.”

For example, Jensen said that simply eliminating the floor to ceiling tile in the restrooms cut $85,000 from the budget.

At a special building meeting last Wednesday, Jensen suggested that the board review utilizing Plant Facilities and Contingency Reserves to provide supplemental funding for the increased costs.

Jensen said after the meeting that the school district has for a number of years built a reserve fund and currently has three months of revenue in that reserve. Jensen’s suggestion to use the money in the reserve fund along with Plant Facilities levy would be to build now in the hopes of not having to build classrooms to the new schools later.

“We have to guess at how much we need to build and how much money we will need and pray that the two marry,” Jensen said. “This is based on the way the state of Idaho funds schools, this is the process. This is the method to our madness. We are scrubbing the plans with things that can be added later without much cost increase.”

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