FULTON COUNTY – Apparently there is a silver lining in the dismal economic forecast for the Fulton County School System – construction costs are way down.
The Fulton County Board of Education approved a $45.5 million contract to build the new high school at Bethany Bend and Cogburn roads in Milton – more than $14 million less than originally budgeted for the school. Put into perspective, the cost savings is nearly the cost of building a new elementary school, and millions below the final price tag for other area high schools.
Evergreen Construction plans to break ground on the new high school site in the next few weeks, and the project is on schedule for an August 2012 opening. The construction firm has built several other schools in Fulton County, including Birmingham Falls Elementary in Milton and two new schools in Sandy Springs.
Patrick Burke, operations chief for Fulton Schools, said the original cost estimate for the Bethany high school site was developed in 2006, at the height of the building boom, as part of the planning process for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The funding for the new high school is coming from the proceeds of this 1 percent sales tax.
The cost was adjusted down to $52 million last year when construction costs began falling. The $45.5 final figure came as a surprise to board members who jokingly suggested the system should accelerate the building program while costs are low.
Burke said there are no plans to move beyond the schedule of projects, noting the system is halfway through SPLOST collections and the goal from this point out is to align expenditures with revenue.
Last year the school system forecast a crisis in the construction program with revenues from the sales tax coming in much lower than anticipated. Since then, the revenues are starting to stabilize, and costs are lower than expected.
Redistricting for the Bethany high school site will take place next spring so that parents will know well ahead of time where their children will be in the fall of 2012.
Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors can remain at the high school where they started, but must provide their own transportation.