The cost of constructing North County Elementary School is millions of dollars higher than originally expected.
Its project budget went from $20 million to $28 million after the School Board of Manatee County unanimously approved a list of consent items on Tuesday evening. Construction services jumped by $7.6 million, and design services increased by $560,000. The expected cost of owner services went down by $160,000.
Only one round of voting is needed to approve a list of consent items, which do not require a discussion. On Thursday, Board Chairman Scott Hopes said each board member is briefed by district officials, such as the chief finance officer and the head of construction, and that members can then request an item be moved to public discussion.
"In reality, that's probably one of the items that we probably should have pulled out so there could be a public discussion and an expression of where those costs were coming from, but it was in the meeting materials," Hopes said.
The site for North County Elementary is located about 10 minutes east of Moccasin Wallow Golf Club. Developers of the Copperstone community, which sits next to the incoming school, donated the land in 2006 so a school could be constructed, alleviating pressure on nearby Virgil Mills Elementary School.
Capital funds, raised through sales and property taxes, will pay for the project. North County Elementary is scheduled to open in August 2019.
Superintendent Diana Greene outlined the increased project budget in a memo sent to board members on May 4.
As a hurricane shelter, the school will have to meet the requirements for Enhanced Hurricane Protection Areas. Such requirements, the memo states, conflict with Florida Building Code and State Requirements for Educational Facilities.
"For example, windows for daylighting in schools vs. missile rated opening requirements for shelters," Green said in the memo.
Greene's memo also cited the cost of skilled workers and the impact of metal tariffs, especially when it comes to framing, steel joists and rebar. Market uncertainty, according to the memo, is causing the prices to increase "at a much quicker pace than normal."
Hopes said new tariffs are raising prices throughout the district. And hardening new schools, he said, was requested by county commissioners several months ago.
"In all of our construction, there's been a pretty significant increase in concrete and steel, and much of that cost was due to the federal tariffs on metals," he said.
The memo also listed a town hall meeting on April 19, when Copperstone residents asked for the school playground to be moved farther from their community. And lastly, up to $500,000 is needed to install traffic signals at 115th Avenue East and Moccasin Wallow Road.
North County Elementary is expected to have one entrance that sits adjacent to the entrance and exit for Copperstone.
Pat Braun, a resident of Copperstone for about seven years, said taxes are one of several ways that North County Elementary is costing her money.
Residents pay to maintain a road that will soon be used by school buses and hundreds of parents, Braun said. For now, construction is the first thing she hears in the morning, and the last thing she hears before dinner.
Braun is selling her town house, and she said the construction caused her to lose at least one interested buyer. She has since dropped the listed price by $6,000.
"I do support the schools," she said. "However, me personally, I moved here to be away from the noise. I wanted the country living."