Despite concerns from the community, Delaware County Career Center board members said Thursday that they are not considering a tax issue to cover unanticipated additional costs for an upcoming campus consolidation.
Tom Kaelber, a board member from Buckeye Valley Local Schools, said he was out of town Dec. 9 when board members learned the consolidation of DACC’s two campuses would cost close to $47 million, more than $10 million more than the previously estimated cost of $35 million. The physical size of the renovated South Campus will be significantly larger than earlier estimates, too.
“I’ve never had so many people come up to me or gotten more calls,” Kaelber said. “This really sparked interest — and rightfully so.”
The board took no action on the budget for the consolidation at its Thursday meeting but did spend some time catching Kaelber up on the budget issues and discussing a potential budget. The board plans to vote on a project budget at its Jan. 21 meeting in the board room at the South Campus at 6:30 p.m.
Board member Ed Bischoff argued that it was unwise to discuss a potential budget number until analysis is done and said he didn’t want to give the architects a blank check because he felt they would just hit that number regardless of whether that much money is needed.
Other board members felt they needed to discuss a number to at least give the architects an idea of what they are working with as they begin to work on initial designs of the consolidated campus.
“[My constituents] want to know that final number, that bottom-line number, that we should not exceed because it’s taxpayer money,” Kaelber said. “People look at a tax dollar as a tax dollar whether it’s from operating funds or a bond issue.”
“We are in a position as a school district to make choices about what we want to do down the road,” said board member Harry Pape. “This is a 40-year decision. This is a huge decision. We are going to be as conservative as we can financially, which got us to this point. … We are not treating this, in any way, shape or form, like it’s not taxpayer money.”
Pape said the $47 million figure is just a rough estimate and does not reflect factors, like using current equipment or furniture.
Officials were clear at the meeting Thursday that the DACC will not be returning to the voters for additional money to support the project. Board members agreed that a loan could be obtained for costs above the $37 million the district has saved for the project.
The board held a special meeting on Dec. 9 to hear a presentation from its architect firm, SHP Leading Designs, and the contractor for the consolidation project, Elford Construction. During the presentation, architects said that the previously discussed square footage of the consolidated campus, 184,000, would not be enough to account for student growth and improvements.
Architects said that because some labs would need to be expanded, the consolidated campus would need to be about 224,988 square feet to account for growing programs and increased enrollment.
DACC Treasurer Christopher Bell on Dec. 9 noted that the school has saved up $37 million to pay for the consolidation through fiscal discipline and good business practices, and told the board it would be possible to get a loan for the additional cost of the consolidation.
The consolidation will result in the closing of DACC’s North Campus.
The board also approved a number of staffing changes at Thursday’s meeting.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.