School auditorium costs go over budget

Local building boom drives up price of Measure G projects

Development costs are through the roof across the Peninsula, and it's taking a toll on school district plans for new auditoriums at Crittenden and Graham middle schools, as well as a new track and soccer field and improvements to the Crittenden Sports Center.

The price tag on the new facilities is $55.7 million -- more than $3 million over-budget, based on a cost estimate of the schematics. The project will have to be redesigned and scaled back to fit with the budget, according to Terese McNamee, chief business officer at the Mountain View Whisman School District.

The development projects in question are phases two and three of the Measure G bond measure, which voters passed in 2012 to repair, upgrade and expand school facilities in the Mountain View Whisman School District. The district reports that the project will likely be 7 to 10 percent over budget.

At the school board meeting last week, project manager Todd Lee told the board that construction costs on the Peninsula are very high, and Santa Clara County is one of the most volatile counties in the United States in terms of construction and development. Electrical costs in particular are through the roof. Todd said the bids are coming in about 45 percent higher for electrical work on the facilities.

"There are no electricians in any of the union halls in any of the 13 Bay Area counties right now," Lee told the board. "We're importing them from out of state."

Lee said there is no justification for the exploding costs other than market conditions, but they cannot ignore it going forward with the Measure G budget.

When asked about overall construction prices in Mountain View, Lee said it was up almost 7 percent last year, and will likely hit double digit numbers for 2014.

The architects for the projects looked at the over-budget schematic a week prior to the board meeting and were able to make adjustments to square footage, building materials and "scope" adjustments to meet budget goals. Project costs at Crittenden are almost back on track, but Graham still needs changes.

Not all the changes were slight modifications. The Crittenden auditorium lobby, a covered, outdoor building, was pared back. The 1,870-square foot lobby will stay roughly the same size, but the full roof was changed into more of a patio roof with some trellis around it in order to cut costs.

The changes to the auditorium lobby alone brought down the cost of the project by over $600,000, which, when combined with the other changes, has put Crittenden plans back in line with the budget.

But confidence is still a little shaky. McNamee said even with adjustments to the scope and the design, she is still concerned about electrical bid prices pushing the project over budget again.

The third phase of Measure G will be approved in Spring of 2015, and will be constructed during 2015-16. The district is looking at PG&E settlement funds, energy grants and developer fees to offset remaining budget deficits.


3 people like this
Posted by Zekkular Bulgaris
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Is this what my taxes are paying for?
We should put that money to better use, and have some safety courses for our children. Alternatively, we could stop being whiny and get these kids some concealed handgun licenses.

Just my two cents.

3 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hmm, over budget, what else is new? But that is ok, the wealthy property taxpayers will pay for everything and rents will go up.

3 people like this
Posted by Rich
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

You can *SAVE* 600 grand by cutting back ONE LOBBY ?!?!?


Is this a public school building, or a new location for the Ritz?

3 people like this
Posted by Rich
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 27, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I find it very ironic that the local schools, which send a very strong message from the earliest grades on that only "lesser" people don't attend college, is now facing the reality of a shortage of skilled (but not college) labor.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2014 at 6:38 pm

The meeting was scheduled for Monday, June 30, 4pm at the District office. The cost overruns are mainly in Phase II at Graham, concerning a bigger 2-story building that was recently introduced after schematic plan adoption. The auditoriums themselves (Phase III) are apparently keeping to the costs previously written.
Rich, I volunteered for awhile at the Los Altos HS building trades class. It is imperative I think that kids of a more hands-on bent also be "college ready" in case they change their minds after a few years. The HS graduate in this area makes estimated median $26,000 (13% poverty) and a 4 yr college graduate $81,000 (3.8% poverty) [source: US Census ACS for MVWSD area in 2012]

2 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

Not to worry. The school board will come back at us for another bloated bond measure in a few years.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 29, 2014 at 8:33 am

John, it is much more likely that some schools/areas will be left off i(n a decade) after money runs low (if two-schools at a time rebuild model is used). There is also a constitutional issue - Gann limit. Borrowing may only go up to a certain limit of the Assessed Valuation of this tax district.
If you want to know who is approving the spending - read the minutes of the School Board votes :)

There are also two very dedicated fellows who ran for school board - Jim Pollart and Peter Darrah - who are trying their best, as committee volunteers, to help advise us on this bond spending area. (Board Facilities Committee). If you want to know how the BFC request for more administrative support was handled by the Board, view the last Board meeting video. :(

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