PPS may be short on funds for school rebuilds


Jamie Bikales

A meeting of Lincoln’s Long Term Development Committee in January 2017, which became the Design Advisory Group. DAG meetings are now postponed until PPS determines how to solve budget issues with the projects.

PPS’ Office of School Modernization postponed several upcoming building design meetings over concerns that the district may not have enough money to fund the projects it promised to voters, including the rebuild of Lincoln.

“As the modernization project teams have done deeper dives into developing cost estimates of the master plans, it has become clear that the costs for Benson, Lincoln and Madison high schools are not in alignment with the initial budgets created for those projects through the May 2017 Bond,” Director of Capital Projects Erik Gerding wrote on Tuesday to members of the Lincoln Design Advisory Group (DAG) in an email, obtained by the Cardinal Times.

He cited rising construction costs in the region as one of the reasons for the discrepancy.

As a result, he said, the DAG meetings on April 12 and 21 have been postponed “until District leadership and the Board of Education have had time to develop a solution to the budget issues.”

According to documents presented to the PPS school board during its public meeting on Tuesday, the new estimates for the cost of modernizing Madison, Lincoln and Benson high schools and Kellogg Middle School, as well as funding health and safety improvements, is $926 million. The bond passed by voters last May was for $790 million, meaning significant aspects of the projects may have to be removed or altered.

Design advisory groups at each school, comprised of volunteers, staff members, architects and students, have been working to make recommendations on lowering costs, the PPS interim Chief Financial Officer Jim Scherzinger told the Board on Tuesday night. These groups have been able to lower the construction costs to $879 million by removing various aspects of the design; however, this is still $89 million over budget.

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