Cecil County Schools Save $1.6 Million on Construction; Ask to Put Savings to Projects Cut by Commish
Cecil County public schools cracked the cost-cutting whip and saved $1.6 million on several school construction and renovation projects already approved and financed by county bonds. So now the schools want to apply a portion of those cost savings to two projects put on hold by the County Commissioners in the recently approved county budget.
Appearing before the Commissioners at a Tuesday worksession, Dr. D’Ette Devine, the schools superintendent, and Tom Kappra, the chief financial officer for the schools, explained that close supervision of construction and renovation projects at the Calvert, Leeds and Thomson Estates schools saved nearly $1.65 million from the projected costs of the construction and renovation projects.
“It’s very rare that we have construction that comes in under budget,” commented Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2). “I think it’s only fair that those savings be rolled over” to other county schools projects, she added.
The schools would like to apply $900,000 of the savings to begin planning for reconstruction of the aging Perryville elementary school, a long delayed project that the Commissioners pulled out of the capital improvement budget for Fiscal 2013 they recently adopted. The proposed allocation is half what the schools had asked for in Fiscal 2013 to begin the process of developing the new Perryville school.
Dr. Devine also said the schools would like to use some funds for the long discussed replacement of the wooden bleachers at North East high, the last school in the county with rickety, splintery wooden bleachers. The county commissioners rejected that appeal in the new budget, despite pleas from many parents and students.
Other portions of the cost savings would be allocated to ongoing mechanical system improvements at Rising Sun elementary and Rising Sun High.
Craig Whiteford, the county budget director, explained that the cost savings must be used for education purposes since the money was raised by selling bonds that were designated for schools and the money could not be used for purposes other than those that bond buyers were told they would be used for. And, he added, “We can’t give the bonds back.”
Re-allocating the cost savings to other schools projects will mean the county will have to issue fewer bonds for future school construction projects, he said.
But Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) indicated she was reluctant to give the money back to the public schools and, if education must be the recipient of the money, she suggested giving it to Cecil College for its math and science building project.
Whiteford questioned “what would you gain” from that idea, noting it would not cut any costs for the college project, which has already had a bond issue, and would just be “merely altering the funding source.”
Moore said she recalled sitting on the splintery, rickety wooden bleachers at Elkton High School when her son attended the school and remarked that many parents and students would welcome metal bleachers at North East High.
The commissioners made no decision but directed Whiteford to draft a detailed budget amendment for the commissioners to consider in a future public session.