The New Albany-Plain Local School District's financial review and reporting committee on Dec. 9 learned how the district plans to stay within its $45-million construction budget for its new 2-8 building.
Kevin Harrison of the Harrison Planning Group told the committee he is the owner's liaison to the contractor, Corna-Kokosing.
Harrison said the district hired Corna-Kokosing as the general contractor and the project's contractor at risk.
He said Corna-Kokosing has been given a "guaranteed maximum price" that it cannot exceed. Corna-Kokosing hires the subcontractors who work on the project and must make sure subcontractors do not exceed the budget.
Harrison said the district is using funds from a $45.1-million, 2.59-mill bond issue local voters approved in November 2012.
The building was designed with the budget in mind and, he said, contingency funds were built into the project to prevention construction from running over budget.
When change orders are submitted, they are reviewed by Corna-Kokosing, the Harrison Planning Group, Superintendent April Domine, treasurer Rebecca Jenkins and chief of operations and strategic development Michael Sawyers.
Harrison said that team must agree to pay for the change or disallow it.
Committee member Dave Demers asked what happens to contingency funds left over after construction is complete.
Jenkins said they could be used to pay off debt or for other projects, as specified in the bond issue.
Committee member Phil Derrow asked if there is any incentive for workers to save money during construction.
School board member Mark Ryan said the board set incentives as far back as the design stages.
Ryan said the board saved $3.5 million when it decided the building could serve a variety of students in a less traditional manner. He said that allowed the district to get a "better outcome with less resources."
Demers suggested reviewing the contingency funds and asking the community how the leftover funds should be spent.
Committee members also questioned Harrison's example of recent change orders for mulch, sod and soil work.
Harrison said the district saved money by purchasing more mulch than needed this year because it was delivered in one trip. He said the extra mulch would be used in the spring.
He said the district has an aggressive timeline for the project and paid for sod instead of seed this fall to ensure the Swickard Woods ball fields that were changed with the project would be ready for spring.
Harrison also said the district encountered an unexpected bad pocket of soil on the east side of the new building. The district decided to remove the soil and replace it instead of trying to work around it.
"When we saw a bad soil boring, we put money in the budget for that problem," he said. "We didn't spend all that we had set aside for this. There is money in the budget to take care of that in its worst-case condition."
One wing of the two-story, 150,000-square-foot building for 1,200 students is expected to open in the fall 2014.
Demers asked why only part of the building would open at that time.
Domine said the district added six weeks to the timeline by increasing the number of community forums to talk about design. The district also declined to budget for overtime work.
She said the wing that is scheduled to open first would handle all growth in the district and allow the district to remove the two modular classrooms near the 2-5 elementary building.
The rest of the building and the gymnasium will open in January 2015, Domine said.