Casey will build school despite tight budget

March 05, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Cautious is the word stressed by Casey County Board of Education's finance officer when considering money allocated for construction on the new $7.5 million Jones Park Elementary School.

However, after hearing about budget woes, increases in the price of building materials, and a suggestion to turn the project over to the state, the board voted in special session Thursday to build the school within budget.

"We need to be very cautious," Deena Randolph told the board. She said the board had not planned to use some of its general funds for the project.

Teacher hikes in salary will cost about $200,000.

"No one has any idea what's going to happen in the General Assembly. There is a lot of uncertainty, and we don't know if the state will pass a budget," said Randolph.


"The expenses increase at a higher rate than revenues," Randolph said. She said the school system may have a beginning balance carryover of $1.7 million for next fiscal year, but it will still be $200,000 short of making the budget balance. She said something has to be done to keep a balanced budget, either by moving money from other funds within the overall budget or trying to get money from other sources.

When asked by Superintendent Linda Hatter if the $750,000 set aside for a new Phillips Elementary School gymnasium has to be kept in the contingency fund, Randolph said projections show that expenses will exceed the projected revenue by $600,000.

"The big question is do we need to protect the Phillips gym money or use the money for construction of the new school," board Chairman Donald Sweeney said earlier.

Board member Mike Davis, who represents the Phillips school district and has been trying to get the new gym, said the money had been allocated for four more classrooms in the new school that will serve 500 students from Phillips, Phelps and Douglas elementary schools.

Davis suggested later to turn the project over to the state but was voted down with the four other members voting to continue with the project.

The contingency was $443,000 this year, and the school district could end up with $243,000 in contingency if the gym money is left in the funds.

Phillips gymnasium money will have to be used

Hatter said this morning that the school system has been faced for the past three years with more increases than revenues and the $520,000 needed for the Jones Park school is not in the budget.

"We'll have to use the Phillips gymnasium money," said Hatter.

However, Winter Huff, board attorney, warned that it would be against the law to spend money that would put the school system below contingency.

After hearing about the finances, the board also learned that cost of some construction materials has increased as much as 66 percent since Oct. 1. Metal studs have increased by 45 percent, joists by 46 percent, and steel beams and columns by 66 percent, according to the architect.

Architect Larry Schwering of Lexington reviewed architectural plans for Jones Park Elementary School and said the building could be modified to meet budget considerations. He said no significant changes have been made and that this phase of construction will end at the back of the school and include sports fields and some landscape work.

He said the modifications include relocating classrooms for preschool and kindergarten, redesigning the family resource work room and classrooms. The stage area will be incorporated into the cafeteria to keep within the budget, Schwering said.

"If the budget expands, we will expand classrooms," he said.

The school will have a metal roof with the exception of the cafeteria, gymnasium and media center, which will have a different type of material.

Sky lights will provide natural light in the hallways and also reduce electricity use.

He told the board to consider the color scheme of the roof metal, brick and windows in the 56,000 square-foot building.

The architect said after revising the cost, the project is over budget by $355,921. He and the school board are looking at a sales tax savings on the project that could save up to $220,000.

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