- May 6, 2020
Several East County schools could see improvements sooner than expected as the School Board of Manatee County considers borrowing money to accelerate construction projects.
If the board chooses to approve a resolution that would allow the School District of Manatee County to borrow $100 million, the district could accelerate work on six capital projects, including a renovation and addition at both Tara Elementary School and Carlos E. Haile Middle School.
The board will decide whether to approve the resolution at its Oct. 27 meeting.
Tim Bargeron, the associate superintendent of finance for the district, said COVID-19 has provided an excellent opportunity for the district to borrow money with a 2.36% interest rate and a construction inflation rate of 7%.
The district could save about $8 million if the district borrows money to complete the projects now in comparison to waiting years to start the projects.
“We can borrow at a low cost, and with the projects that we’re suggesting we expedite, the savings by avoiding inflation exceeds the cost of borrowing,” Bargeron said.
Borrowing money has other benefits as well, Bargeron said, including lesser cost of the annual upkeep of the older facilities and possible utility savings due to modernizing or replacing buildings.
The district wouldn’t borrow money until it begins to have significant costs to pay for the projects, Bargeron said.
“As soon as we borrow, we’re going to have to start paying interest, so we’re going to delay it as long as we can to minimize interest expense,” he said.
If the board approves the resolution, the district would be able to start advertising for architects and construction managers for Haile’s addition and renovation and would continue work on Tara Elementary in the spring.
If the district can accelerate these projects, the district can then plan to move up other capital projects in the capital plan.
With East County seeing fast growth, schools are needing more space for students.
“Classrooms are the least [costly] facilities for a school to build,” said Jane Dreger, the director of construction services for the district. “Gyms, auditoriums, media centers, cafeterias and kitchens are the most expensive. By putting additions at these schools strategically, we are allowing the district to grow without the significant cost of an added new school. To level off that ‘Go build new high schools, middle schools and elementary schools,’ we are adding onto the facilities whose core facilities can handle the additions.”
Dreger said a new middle school or K-8 school might need to be built in Parrish, but work wouldn’t start until possibly 2027.
Here’s what’s happening at schools in the greater Lakewood Ranch area:
Gene Witt Elementary School
Braden River Middle School
Lakewood Ranch High School
Accelerated projects pending board approval
Carlos E. Haile Middle School
Tara Elementary School
Future capital projects in East County
R. Dan Nolan Middle School
Freedom Elementary School