SMMUSD HDQTRS — Construction projects at Lincoln Middle School are expected to run $4 million over the original budget, forcing the school district to dip into bond program reserves to make up the difference.
The original budget put approximately $17.5 million aside for construction on the Lincoln campus.
Approximately half of the price increase resulted from rising construction costs since the project was originally designed in 2009, which caused recent attempts to put the project out to bid at the original budget to come up short.
Workers encountered surprises as they began converting a former library and three rooms into new classrooms. A science lab and a prep room also forced costs up, said Stuart Sam, director of facilities improvement with the district.
“There were unforeseen conditions,” Sam told board members. “(The building) has been modified throughout its life. You don’t know until you open up the walls.”
That can mean cutting into what you thought was a normal wall and hitting concrete, or being forced to take extra measures if there was damage hidden by the otherwise stable surface.
The project, and many others like it, are funded through the Measure BB program, a $268 million bond passed by voters in 2006.
This allocation, which the board approved, will bring the general reserves for the districtwide construction projects down to $13.2 million.
Working backward from the newly requested amount, teams had completed approximately $4 million worth of work and had outstanding contracts for fire alarms, approximately $429,000 worth of furniture, fixtures and equipment and $90,000 worth of carpeting.
That leaves $16 million for construction, including a contingency, Sam said.
Although the actual scope of the project will not change, compromises will have to be made to keep the project within even the expanded budget.
Sam called the concept “value engineering.” It means replacing more expensive materials and components with less costly versions that achieve the same goal.
That could mean poured concrete in the main courtyard areas instead of individual pieces, or changing the plumbing fixtures from automatic flush valves to manual flush valves, Sam told board members.
Exactly what can be replaced on the Lincoln project will become clear after a month or two of analysis, according to district officials.
Cutting the budget down will also mean managing the construction to chop three months off of the timeline of the project.
Even with the attempts to save money, the Lincoln projects racked up a 36 percent change order rate, which means the cost varied greatly from officials’ original projections.
If not quite expected, it at least wasn’t surprising, said Jan Maez, chief financial officer with the district.
“Lincoln was the first big modernization project,” Maez told board members.
It wasn’t the case with all of the projects on the Measure BB list, some of which came markedly under their budgeted amounts. The entire portfolio of 31 contracts had a 3 percent change order rate.
“We’re always hopeful that the bids come in along the estimates,” said Boardmember Ralph Mechur Monday. He and board Vice President Laurie Lieberman served as liaisons for the BB program.
“Most of the projects have,” he continued. “This one didn’t but because of savings, the program has been run well and there’s money in the reserves so … that we’re able to build the project as anticipated.
Good management made that possible, Lieberman said at the meeting.
“I’m grateful it’s going as smoothly as it is,” Lieberman said. “It’s due to some really good work by all of you.”