In his April 25 letter, Jerry Venera asks a good question: why will our new high school cost $109.9 million when Ellensburg built a similar school for $32 million?
The Ellensburg project was not a completely new building. The library, a gym and one classroom building were re-used from their old school – and the site was already developed. But the biggest reason is inflation. Between second-quarter 2003 (when the bid was awarded) and fourth-quarter 2006, the cost of “nonresidential structures” across the nation rose 35.4 percent (U.S. Deptment of Commerce). Almost 12 percent per year came in 2005 and 2006.
Regionally, a continuing boom in commercial construction plus the 2010 Vancouver Olympics makes it difficult for school bids to compete. In 2003, the average high-school construction bid was about $175 per square foot (State of Washington OSPI). The most recent high-school bid in our state (Granite Falls High School, bid August 2006) was $260 per square foot.
This $260-per-square-foot bid for a “typical” high school became the Facilities Task Force’s baseline for future cost estimates. Let’s do the math:
* $260 per square foot x three more years of 12 percent inflation (36 percent) = $353 per square foot in August 2009 when the bid will be awarded.
* $353 per square foot x 225,000 square feet = $79.4 million materials and labor “hard” costs
* Add industry-standard 30 percent for “soft costs” (design, fees, permits, sales tax, furniture, fixtures, equipment) = $103.2 million
* Add heating, cooling and athletic field costs and you have $109.9 million – the estimated cost of our new high school.
A $100 million-plus high school is the reality we are faced with. It will only get more expensive with time. Please remember to vote “YES” on May 15.
Facilities Task Force member