PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Inflation is not just affecting consumers at the grocery store. It is also impacting school districts like Portage Public Schools that are working on renovations and new buildings.
In last year’s special election, Portage area voters said yes to a 25-year, $175 million bond that would help fund five construction projects and one renovation project towards six elementary schools. But administrators say recent inflation forced the district to head back to the design drawing board.
Johnny Edwards, who serves as the district’s assistant superintendent of operations, told the board of education that the schematic designs of the projects — where the wants and needs are detailed — came back with a 40% bigger price tag than before.
“A normal rate of inflation cost increase is 3% per year and that’s what the original budgets were predicated upon,” Edwards explained. “Now, to be faced with a 40% rate of inflation with this project, it is unprecedented.”
Of the $175 million in funding from the bond, $125 million is going towards these projects, with the remaining $50 million set aside for what are called “soft costs,” like fees.
Edwards reassures the district will not ask for a penny more. Instead, he says they will look for ways to scale back the designs without compromising key educational needs, a process called value engineering. Some areas of focus include mechanical systems, project terraces and canopies.
“We’re looking at the educational programming to make sure that as we’re designing the schools, that we’re still able to say this building will be able to morph into whatever education becomes over the next half-century,” Edwards said.
Edwards said construction for the new Central and Haver Hill elementary schools are expected to start next year, as scheduled. But for the other four, those are still to be determined.