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Superintendent explains project cost overrun

To the Editor:
As reported at the School Board work session last week and the in paper, the GSL building project is just under $1.4 million over budget. This certainly wasn’t welcomed news to the district. We have a great facility, but it cost us a lot more than we thought.
The first question that many of you have is the same one that we had, “How did this happen?” In getting final numbers, the main reason was approximately $800,000 in fire suppression. This was a state requirement that was not in the original plans. We had $125,000 of soil corrections because of the wet August in 2016. We submitted an insurance claim because of this, but the dollars we got back were minimal. The state also required that we redo our drainage design at a price tag of $110,000. The downstairs bathrooms in Lincoln Elementary had to be upgraded to meet handicap accessibility requirements at $25,000 and, finally, add in the $300,000 of increased cost that we predicted, and it ended up just under $1.4 million.
Again, not great news. In the end, we have a great facility, which is safe, new, and very efficient for years to come. It is our job and responsibility to handle the budget. We will do this by reducing some scheduled projects and using some of the district’s reserves that must be spent on projects. The school board and administration will work together and will make the necessary decisions to pay for the added costs.
Along with the building project, our operations budget is also getting close to falling below our fund balance policy. We will need to continue to look for ways to run the school more efficiently. This is something that happens every year, yet it seems to be emphasized a little more this year because of the building project. I want to emphasize that our building project budget and the operating budget are separate. In running a school district, you will always need to run things as efficiently as possible and, at the same time, you need to offer as many programs, classes and services as we can. It is our job to make recommendations to the board as to where we can reduce costs. When you deal with the ebb and flow of school finance, these types of things happen. Later in the next year or two, we will need to renew our operating levy. This vote is critical for the financial outlook of the district. Again, the amount over budget due to the building project is not directly connected to the operations of the district. It is our hope that our district’s stakeholders will continue to support our school as you have done in the past. At this time, the district remains very financially healthy and it is our job to continue to do so.
Thank you all for your support of GSL as we continue to move forward in providing a great education for all of our students!
Christopher D. Sonju
GSL Superintendent of Schools