Sales tax revenue higher than projected, but so are district’s construction costs (The St. Augustine Record)

Sales tax revenue higher than projected, but so are district’s construction costs (The St. Augustine Record)

Rising construction costs and timeline adjustments, on the other hand, have caused district officials to tweak budgeting for new school buildings and expansions, in most cases rounding those figures up.

At a quarterly meeting Monday of the citizens advisory committee, set up to help oversee expenditures under the half-cent surtax, members were provided an update on the progress of those projects.

Picolata Crossing Elementary School is nearing completion, with furniture set for delivery in the next couple of weeks. The K-8 school will serve up to 871 students in the World Golf Village region. Construction cost a total of $23.8 million — a little under budget — and was paid entirely through sales tax revenue.

Also ready for completion by the Aug. 10 start of school is the expansion of Nease High School. A new two-story classroom wing will add capacity for 500-plus additional students. Also being added are a new entryway, media lab, dining center and other amenities. The approximately $17 million renovation additionally includes a widening of Ray Road to improve traffic flow as well as a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 1.

The other two new K-8 elementary schools paid for with money from the sales tax were slated for opening in 2017-18, but when they were pushed off to 2018-19, construction costs came in higher than original estimates by the time the district went out to rebid.

The so-called “LL school” will accommodate 1,400 students in the Aberdeen section and cost $36.5 million. After extensive site preparation work, it is in the process of being framed out now.

The third project, the “KK school,” used just $5 million of sales tax revenue, with the majority of its $36.5 million price tag offset by developer fees. A three-story wing is being built first, with plans for a two-story section later. The school will also have a capacity of 1,400 students.

“It’s coming along a little faster than LL,” said Nicole Cubbedge, the district’s executive director for planning and governmental relations.

The half-cent sales tax will remain in effect for 10 years in total and is expected to add a minimum of $150 million to the district’s coffers in that time, the majority earmarked for construction to accommodate rapid growth, especially in the northern part of the county.

Projections show the county will collect between $18 million and $18.5 million in sales tax for 2017-18. Of that, $5.6 million will be taken off the top to pay down debt service incurred on the $50 million bond the district opted to take on so it could begin construction last year.

Cubbedge said with the district paying off its bond debt by 2021, plans for a new high school could be considered, with funds being drawn from the schools’ regular capital budget

“We didn’t put in for a new high school (to be paid for) in the sales tax because it would have eaten up a lot of the money,” said Cubbedge.

Source: The St. Augustine Record

Posted June 21, 2017 12:02 am – Updated June 21, 2017 06:39 am

By Colleen Michele Jones

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