Cost comparison: Snoqualmie school official addresses bond differences between Twin Falls, new school

By reusing the same design as Twin Falls Middle School, the Snoqualmie Valley School District proposes to save about $400,000 and several months in design work to construct the new Snoqualmie Middle School.

Based on third party projections, though, the cost for the new $48.3 million SMS will be about $18 million more than the cost of Twin Falls school, built five years earlier.

Ryan Stokes, District Finance Officer, was challenged to address these differences by a local family. Stokes said changes were due to economic shifts and additions to the design for the new Snoqualmie Middle School.

Although the 2003 bond approved Twin Falls at $22.7 million, the final construction cost in 2007 was $30.5 million. Stokes said that the estimates were created using 2002 costs, and construction costs were higher by 2006 when the project was bid.

Stokes broke down the costs of the two projects (see table), and noted some of the key differences.

The new SMS will have the same capacity as Twin Falls, 700 students, but it will have about $1 million in new features and improvements, including an artificial turf football field—the remaining portion of the April 26 bond includes artificial turf installation at both the other middle schools’ football fields—a field house with storage and bathrooms, and a heat recovery system, expected to pay for itself in energy savings in eight years.

Development costs for the 40-acre site at the new school are estimated to be about $6 million more than the costs for Twin Falls, mainly because of the  82-foot change in elevation from the west to east ends of the lot, and three wetlands on the property. Contingency funds budgeted throughout the project total $6.6 million.

A total of $15.1 million of the cost discrepancy is accounted for as follows:

• $6.3 million more in site development costs

• $1.1 million in school additions and improvements

• $2.7 million reserved to mitigate construction cost changes between planning and bidding

• $1.5 million more budgeted for change orders—Twin Falls incurred about 2 percent of costs in change orders; SMS is budgeting 5 percent.

• $3.5 million budgeted as an 8 percent contingency fund.

Additionally, Stokes said the project calculations assumed an annual inflation rate of about 3.2 percent.

He said the new project also compares favorably to new middle school projects in Edmonds and Snohomish, which cost $54 million and $78 million respectively.

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