Under Construction and Over Budget

Just when you think everything is on track, something happens. In the case of the $72.2 million Schools of the Tarrytowns’ Reconstruction Project, new estimates coming in from contractors bidding on the project are now over budget in critical areas.

imagesThe logical question on many minds is “What happened?” The answer is complicated indeed. There are two major segments that have departed from original planning. First, the original budget of $45.1 million assigned to the High School restoration was revised in October 2005 to $49.2 million and again in July 2006 to $56.7 million. Depending on what budget the new number is compared to, the current budget estimates are now running either 20% over the original arithmetic or 10% over the October revision. Second, the remaining portion of the budget that was earmarked for reconstruction work at Washington Irving has now been finalized at $8.8 million, down from the original budgeting of $17.1 million. The final total budget however, will remain relatively constant at $73.6 million.

The early assessment of the current situation is that between the time the budget was put together two years ago, construction costs have substantially increased. Those component parts that are “energy intensive” have risen in cost and would include bricks, glass, demolition, gasoline expenses, transformers, along with other heavy equipment spare parts. The question of including a provision for possible excess costs was done by JMOA of Pleasantville, N.Y., the construction manager for the project. That budgeting now appears to have been short of the actual mark.

According to Superintendent of Schools, Howard Smith, construction experts along with Board members have already reconfigured the current budget to include the exact items that are critical to the High School restoration along with the addition of the Sixth Grade to the Middle/High School campus. Washington Irving, minus the existing Sixth grade will continue to have room for Fourth and Fifth graders, while the plan for adding the third grade at WI will be put on hold. Morse School, will now remain until additional budget flows start from the Lighthouse Landing and Ferry Landings projects. Morse will house grades two and three. Smith feels that if the current bids are correctly implemented, all critical elements of the original plan can be achieved since the School System will be in a position to “wait” for these new revenue streams, particularly in the case of the Washington Irving additions. Smith stressed that the Villages would, in no case, be asked to make up the shortfall through additional school and property taxes or another bond issue. He also points out that this revision will affect well over half the students in the system.

The key elements in the High School and Middle School projects will be finished in their entirety. Those will include the new three-story front to the High School, a new High School gym which will seat significantly more spectators, a new auditorium, necessary renovation work, making way for the expanded Middle School plus a new Middle School cafeteria. Washington Irving will still receive improvements in its library and will undergo a major renovation for its auditorium. Classroom footage at WI will increase from 450 sq. ft. to 770 sq. ft. Smith feels that escalating costs are starting to slow down and that the new configuration of the budget will hold through the planned three-year building period.

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About the Author: Arnold Thiesfeldt