Roslyn school board considers additions to capital plan

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Roslyn school trustees are considering a $5 million addition to its $46 million capital plan after construction costs for projects to install air-conditioning exceeded the district’s budget and additional work not initially included in the plan were found to be necessary, officials said Thursday.

Erik Kaeyer, the vice president and design principal for the firm KG&D Architects, which has worked with the district to develop its capital plan, said air-conditioning at the high school as it was originally designed would cost $1.9 million, with about $450,000 in ceiling and light work, and approximately $1.6 million at Harbor Hill Elementary School. 

Additional projects, to construct an additional pick-up area at the high school and to add about 30 parking spaces at East Hills Elementary School and reconstruct an athletic field, would run more than $1.8 million.

But the board has $5.5 million on hand in its $1.75 million 2014 budgetary transfer to its capital fund, a projected $1.75 million budgetary transfer to the capital fund as part of the 2015-16 budget and a $2 million capital reserve fund which would require voter authorization to allocate, officials said.

“Essentially that takes your capital funds to zero, which most districts would do when they have a $41 million bond. That’s not uncommon,” Roslyn Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner said. “You have the opportunity to refund the operating budget line the following year going into 2016. It’s not as if you’re draining all your capital money [permanently].”

Kaeyer said project costs likely increased because of an increase in public bid projects in the last few years.

“Contractors were coming in really low for the last five, six years to keep food on the table,” he said. “…It’s not just schools. The entire industry is getting very busy.”

The additional parking was necessary, trustees said, due to the district proposing to end its rental of the Annex building at 440 Round Hill Road, while the district’s budget for air-conditioning would have covered a fraction of the complete project.

Trustees said that while they have concerns about spending more money than voters had approved, they would likely support projects like air-conditioning, for which the board and voters expected would be constructed to full completion. 

“If we’re going to do it at all, we need to do it right, we need to do it healthy and we need to do it to last,” board president Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy said.

Cliff Saffron, the board’s vice president, and Trustee David Dubner each expressed doubt over spending the district’s allocated capital funding when trustees cannot fully gauge project costs in two or three years, when other phases of work currently under budget are slated to begin.

“These projects have been [planned] for three years. We’re assuming price increases for what we know now,” Cliff said. “For these projects to kick off in two or three years, they’re not going to kick off at the budgeted price.”

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