School repair project $436M over budget
Broward School Board wants a plan for how work will get done
A long-delayed Broward school renovation program is now expected to cost an extra $436 million, leading School Board members to demand a plan for how the work will get done.
Five years after voters approved an $800 million bond referendum to repair dilapidated schools, only seven of the 234 schools are complete, with 55 under construction. Many projects have been stuck with architects for two or three years and have had to be redesigned because of flaws that led to failed inspections.
Many projects under construction are coming in at 50 percent or more over budget. The cost to repair the 68-year-old Stranahan High in Fort Lauderdale climbed from $11 million to $28 million, while repairs and additions at Cypress Bay HIgh in Weston skyrocketed from $9 million to $33 million.
“We need a mitigation plan that addresses these spiraling costs, and the public needs to know we have this plan and they need to have access to this plan,” Board member Nora Rupert said at a Tuesday workshop. “People need to understand we’re aware of what’s going on and we’re doing the best for the taxpayer dollars we possible can do.”
Several other School Board members agreed and district officials promised to bring a plan to the School Board soon.
The delays and rising costs have alarmed Bruce Bernard, a member of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee who discussed
the district’s progress with School Board members Tuesday.
“The costs are going, going, going. How far is it going to go?” Bernard asked. “Where is it going to end? Where does someone say this is the top buck we have?”
The $436 million increase is up from a $245 million projected in January 2017. Both estimates came from Atkins International, a consulting firm the district hired to advise the district on costs of the bond program.
School Board member Lori Alhadeff proposed holding a countywide town hall to allow the public to ask questions and voice concerns about the bond. Superintendent Robert Runcie said he’d look into it but made no promises to do that. He said he may hold smaller meetings within School Board member districts.
District officials say roofs, which are 30 percent of the construction budget, have been the biggest drain
In December, district officials said former district employees and a former consultant estimated roof costs in 2014 as $6.80 per square foot. But that was well below the average cost of $12.98 for roofs that had actually been built in the district during the 2007-08 school year, the height of the recession. Today, the average cost is $19 per square foot, officials said.
However, School Board member Robin Bartleman said she contacted Miami-Dade schools and their roofing costs are coming in at $11 to $15 per square foot, significantly cheaper than Broward.
“We’ve been told our inspection procedures are different,” responded Frank Girardi, executive director of capital projects. “We hold vendors to the highest responsibility of getting plans and [specifications] done. Other counties may not be as strict.”
Bartleman questioned Girardi’s logic saying everyone has to build the same code the state sets for schools.
“You’re bidding on cost per square foot, not on inspections. The inspections are done after they get the job,” Bartleman said.
Girardi said contractors will increase their bids if they know inspectors are strict.
District officials said they would conduct comparisons of roof costs in more districts. School Board members have also asked district building inspectors to meet with them soon.
The bond program was supposed to be complete by 2021, but district officials have moved that back to at least 2023.
Work has been completed at seven schools so far, Girardi said. Only two are among the district’s oldest schools: Coconut Creek Elementary and Cypress Elementary in Pompano Beach.
The other five were built in the 1990s or 2000s: Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, Indian Ridge Middle in Davie, Eagle Ridge Elementary in Coral Springs (1994), McNichol Middle in Hollywood and Silver Shores Elementary in Miramar.
“The costs are going, going, going. How far is it going to go? Where is it going to end? Where does someone say this is the top buck we have?”
Bruce Bernard, a member of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee
Stranahan High is a Broward school facing long delays and skyrocketing costs for repairs.