UPDATE: New bond issue on next Columbia high school proposed

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 7:31 p.m. CST; updated 8:05 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 19, 2009

COLUMBIA — Under a new financing plan proposed to the Columbia School Board on Thursday, construction of Columbia's next public high school would not begin until 2010.

The proposal presented to the board by interim Superintendent Jim Ritter requests a single bond issue of $120 million to be voted on in 2010. In that case, construction of the high school, to be located on St. Charles Road in the northeast part of the district, would begin that year.

Although the new financing proposal did not come to a vote, the board approved a proposal to allow the architectural firm, DLR Group, to plan the school beyond the first phase.

“In essence, this negates the current plan,” said Nick Boren, chief operations officer of Columbia Public Schools. “It pushes the groundbreaking back a year.”

The amount requested for the project would be the same, but the total savings of constructing the building at one time is expected to be $15 million. There is expected to be a net savings of $7.5 million because part of the $120 million bond's proceeds would pay for the interest on the project.

The current plan called for three $60 million bond issues, the first of which was approved in April 2007. The other two were slated for ballots in 2011 and 2013. The district planned to begin construction of the school in three phases, beginning in 2009.

Boren echoed the concerns Ritter presented about constructing the high school over time.

“There are inherent risks in constructing it in phases,” Boren said. “There are so many unknowns when it comes to a project of this size.”

The new plan is aimed at eliminating inefficiencies of building the high school in phases. Boren said the construction of temporary structures required for the functioning of the developing school, the demolition of transitional walls and the yearly changes in the price of materials would all increase the cost of building the project as currently planned.

Construction of the high school could now depend on voter approval of a single $120 million bond next year.

“Voters will have to be convinced, and a lot of details have yet to be worked out,” Boren said, “but a big selling point is that there will be no tax increase.”

Boren said that though construction of the school would begin a year later than initially planned, it would be completed a year earlier. Under the current plan, students and staff would move as sections of the structure are completed over 5 years, fully occupying the school by August 2014. Boren said the new proposal would result in full occupation by 2013.

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