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Paynesville Press - October 17, 2001

Project to be finished without deficit

By Michael Jacobson

The school's building project - which added a new auditorium and fitness center to the north side of Paynesville Area High School - will be completed with money in the construction account, superintendent Howard Caldwell told the school board on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Around $106,000 remains in the building fund, and only $50,000-$70,000 in payments are still due, said Caldwell, meaning the project's deficit has been wiped out and it will be finished with existing funds in the building construction fund.

This means the school will not have to use any funds from its capital improvement account to cover a project deficit.

Fourteen months ago, in August 2000, the project was $150,000 behind budget, primarily on account of adding air conditioning ($75,000) and of an accounting oversight ($83,000).

Since then, the school administration and the project professionals have worked hard to get the project back on track. Alterations were done to the project to save money. The district received $25,000 in donations, used other levies to raise an additional $125,000 for the project, and used a one-day bond sale to transfer $54,000 from the debt service account to the building fund.

The school district also earned $40,000 more from interest than budgeted. District voters approved selling $3.4 million in bonds for the project in December 1999. Since that money was received in 2000, the district has had it invested and earned $160,000 in interest, more than the $120,000 originally estimated.

The school assumed ownership of the addition in June 2001.

A number of minor things still need to be completed, mainly in the auditorium, before a final accounting of the project can be done. The district's construction professionals are trying to get contractors to complete the work.

Caldwell told the board that the remaining expenditures would amount to less than the remaining funds in the construction account. "I'm feeling pretty good at this point," Caldwell said.

The bleak predictions over the course of the project have been covered in a number of stories by the Press.

School board chairman Pat Flanders expressed concern that the public will have an erroneous impression of the project's finances. "Do you think we'll ever have the general public understand that the project came in on budget?" he asked at the meeting last week.

Project Timeline
December 1999 -
With 667 votes for and 493 against, district voters pass a $3.4 million bond issue for the addition of an auditorium and fitness center.

May 2000 -
Board awards bids for the project, and construction starts on four new tennis courts near the vocational building.

June 2000 -
Ground is broken on site (north of high school) and construction begins. School board directs air conditioning to be installed in the new addition.

August 2000 -
An $83,000 accounting oversight is discovered, as the cost of the bond issuance has not been included in the project's budget. At this time, the project is $150,000 behind budget, on account of the oversight and the inclusion of air conditioning ($75,000).

October 2000 -
Alterations to the project, primarily behind the scenes, save $60,000.

November 2000 -
A fund-raising effort - whose goal is to raise $100,000 - to get the project's budget back on track is started. By June 2001, the school had received $25,000 in donations to aid the project.

February 2001 -
The district conducts a one-day bond sale, issuing bonds for $54,400 (which is used for the building project) and repaying the bonds a day later from the district's debt service fund. The transaction, which costs the district $4,200, effectively transfers money from the debt service fund to the building project budget.

April 2001 -
The school board restarts its fund-raising efforts, despite projections that the project's deficit is only $50,000. The district also learns that the state has approved another $14,000 of ventilation work in the basement for the district's health and safety levy. In all, the district levied nearly $100,000 for the project through the health and safety levy and another $25,000 for an elevator chute with an ADA levy.

June 2001 -
Administrators, construction managers, and architects predict that the project will end up close to budget. The school district takes possession of both the auditorium and fitness center and holds an open house and dedication for the new facility on Friday, June 22.

October 2001 -
Some odds and ends remain on the project, which must be done before a final accounting of the project can be done. Superintendent Howard Caldwell tells the school board that he is confident that the remaining funds in the project account ($106,000) will be enough to cover the remaining expenditures ($50,000-$70,000). This means no money will need to be taken from the capital expenditures fund to cover cost overruns from the building project. Over the course of the project, the school benefited from nearly $160,000 in interest income.

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