OGDEN — The updated estimated cost of rebuilding or revamping four Ogden elementary schools has jumped since the successful 2018 vote on the bond question to fund the projects.
When put to voters in November 2018, the estimated budget to rebuild Horace Mann and T.O. Smith schools, overhaul Polk Elementary and add onto Wasatch Elementary totaled $87 million. Since then, that figure has increased to $106,451,924, a 21.2% increase.
That’s money taxpayers will likely have to pay to keep the city’s schools up to par. Whatever the case, Jer Bates, spokesman for the Ogden School District, says the rise, stemming in part from construction inflation, isn’t a surprise and he doesn’t expect it to adversely impact other district projects. Work has already started on the Wasatch addition and the rebuild of Horace Mann. The Polk upgrade is to begin in June and the T.O. Smith rebuild is to start this coming summer or fall, according to the tentative project timeline.
The $87 million figure was meant to be “a representation of the amount of money that the district would need to borrow to pay for the projects based on estimates at that time,” Bates said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. “It is not a surprise that the current estimated combined cost of the projects exceeds the amount of the 2018 bond, given the fact that we are in a period of significant construction cost inflation.”
Moreover, he noted that the updated cost figures are “actual renovation costs versus estimated costs” and that school leaders are mindful of keeping spending in check. “While factors such as inflation are outside of the district’s control, we are working with our project manager, contractors and architects to get the best possible value for the project budget,” Bates said.
Voters in the Ogden School District approved the $87 million bond in 2018 by a 56%-44% margin. Officials said the four schools needed updating to modernize the facilities and make them more resistant to earthquakes, among other things. Passage that year came a year after the narrow defeat in 2017 of an earlier $106.5 million school bond proposal by a 51%-49% margin.
When the Ogden School Board approved the 2018 bond resolution, the estimated costs of the varied projects were $30 million at Polk, $25 million each for the Horace Mann and T.O. Smith rebuilds and $7 million for the Wasatch project. According to an update on the projects presented to school board members at a Feb. 6 work session, the estimated cost in dollar terms had increased the most on the Polk project, from $30 million to $37.15 million. The Horace Mann estimate had gone from $25 million to $29.16 million, the T.O. Smith estimate had risen from $25 million to $27.45 million and the Wasatch price tag had jumped from $7 million to $11.69 million.
The Wasatch project required a $601,797 change order to deal with plumbing, irrigation, sidewalk, curb and gutter issues.
The extra dollars needed could come from district capital budget funds or lease revenue bonds, which don’t require voter approval, according to Bates. He didn’t have additional details, but doesn’t expect the extra cost to impact other capital projects.
As part of the Polk rebuild, to be finished by summer 2022, the school is to temporarily close, with students attending other schools — probably Taylor Canyon and Wasatch elementary schools. Bates said a meeting is in the works, probably later this month, to give the public more details on the plans, which are still being finalized.
“Questions have arisen from each of these three school communities asking about the displacement from Polk Elementary. The most common inquiry is about the timetable for announcing the displacement plan. We are eager to provide this information as soon as possible as it impacts all school stakeholders — students, staff, parents, volunteers, crossing guards, bus drivers and others,” Bates said.
Taylor Canyon is scheduled to close when the Polk rebuild is done, with students — some at least — shifting to the overhauled school.