APS New North Atlanta High School – BOE Never Discussed 70% Increase in Cost

As noted yesterday, Richard Belcher at WSBTV2 reported on the massive cost of the new North Atlanta High School. The total price tag is $147 million – $91.4 million for the building and athletic field and $55.6 million for the property. The cost for the building and athletic fields alone make the new school the most expensive in the State by far.

So, how did APS get to this point? The answer is very troubling.

A review of the BOE minutes and the Construction Status Report (CSR) which is provided to the BOE at every meeting tells an interesting tale.

At the time the project was announced, the price for the project, excluding the land, was estimated to be approximately $45 million. Subsequently, the “working budget” was repeatedly shown to be $42 million.

In the first quarter of 2012, the initial designs were completed and submitted to APS departments for comments and input on the design (the working budget remained at $42 million). In early April 2012, per the Construction Status Report, the “working budget” is changed from the $42 million to “To Be Determined” with a note that the project will be submitted to the BOE for approval.

On April 10, 2012 the BOE meets and unanimously approves a contract for the construction of the building and athletic fields in the amount of $70.9 million – a price tag that is $28.9 million or 69% higher than the initial “working budget”. This is the first time the nearly $71 million price tag shows up in any BOE documents. Further, while it is customary for Mr. Larry Hoskins –  Deputy Superintendent of Operations – to make a presentation to the BOE on the status of construction projects, in April there is no record of him doing so.

What is most disconcerting is that the April 10, 2012 BOE minutes do not reflect any discussion on the project or the cost overruns. In addition, Talk-Up APS, which live blogs the BOE meetings, does [not] reflect any discussion by the BOE on the project and the escalating costs.

More recently, the total cost of the project further increased by an additional $20.5 million, bringing the total cost for the building and athletic fields to $90.4 million. This figure is $49.4 million or 118% over the initial cost estimate.

The BOE is elected to provide oversight and to monitor the use our tax dollars. In this case, they accepted a nearly 70% increase in cost without one word of discussion on the issue.

You may not be surprised to also know that APS Operations officials and certain BOE members were unavailable for comment.

I echo a comment made yesterday – I am “speechless in Atlanta”.

The following is a detailed timeline of events:

  1. On May 4, 2011 APS announced the purchase of the property. At that time they estimated the “all in” cost for the new school – including the property – would be approximately $100 million.
  2. The project is presented on the CSR for the first time on June 2, 2011 and reflects a budget for the building and athletic fields of $42 million.
  3. In January 2012, the CSR notes that the Construction Manager was still in the process of developing a Guaranteed Maximum Price for the project.
  4. In February 2012, the CSR indicates that the initial design was under review by “various APS departments for design input”. The budget remains at $42 million.
  5. In March 2012, the CSR indicates that the “APS departmental comments are being incorporated into design”. The budget is still $42 million. The BOE held its meeting and there was no discussion reflected in the minutes of the potential change in cost of the project.
  6. In early April in advance of the BOE meeting, the CSR is released and the budgeted amount for the project is now shown as TBD (to be determined). However, the CRS notes that the project will be submitted to the BOE for approval in April.
  7. On April 10, the BOE meets and, as part of the Consent Agenda, unanimously approves a $70.9 million construction contract. The increase in cost is $28.9 million or 69% over the original $42 million budget. Further, a review of the Talk-Up APS blog that documents the commentary during the BOE meeting shows no discussion of the project by the BOE. It is also important to note that Mr. Larry Hoskins (Deputy Superintendent of Operations), who normally makes a presentation at BOE meetings on construction project status, did not make a presentation to the BOE. It should also be noted that the April 2012 meeting was consumed with the redistricting plan that was also approved at that time.
  8. In March, 2013 the CSR shows that the budget for the project increased by $5.5 million.
  9. In June 2013, the budget for the project is increased by an additional $15 million. The final budget(?) is shown as $91.4 million – a total cost overrun of $49.4 million or 118%.

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