Despite a $115 million budget, State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell and business managers Randy Brown and Donna Watson attest — the total cost of the high school exceeds $140 million, as of July. Brown confirms that the total increase is $25 million. That’s 22 percent over budget. Also in July, O’Donnell stated, the $115 million budget committed to during the referendum, was only a “concept” (7/24 CDT and 7/25 board meeting).
During the board meeting on Sept. 26, physical plant Director Ed Poprik told the board that they should expect $100,000 per month in change orders for the next 36 months of the high school renovation — clearly referring to the cost overruns. He explains that he expects to spend almost all of the $4.4 million of cost contingency, adding that if the part of the contingency caused by mistakes in their PlanCon application comes in under $1 million, it’s acceptable.
“Contingency” is just like “budget” in the minds of the administration and school board. The plan is to pile on more debt.
This project has mushroomed far beyond the board’s $115 million commitment to us. A planning fallacy called strategic misrepresentation comes to mind.
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Expanding the project so far beyond the $115 million promise — for whatever reason — circumvents the intent of the referendum and Act 1 laws, as well as the survey. Cavalier restructuring of debt creates high risk for future generations and district necessities.
Don’t be fooled. This is a bait-and-switch.
Mary C. Marino, State College