Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is looking for solutions after bids for the renovation of Lincoln Center came in much higher than its initial $25 million budget.
“The school received bids in October,” said finance director Gary Donaldson at a meeting with the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “Those bids were 40 percent over the project budget.”
The four bids ranged from $35.3 million to $35.8 million.
The renovation would include adding a second floor to Lincoln Center to house a Pre-K program, expanding Phoenix Academy and adding more office space for administrators.
The project will be paid for using part of the $72.1 million of bond funding issued last year, but the increased cost could affect the planned renovation of Chapel Hill High School.
“I think Chapel Hill High is the building that’s in worst condition of all of our projects,” said assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese. “We’ve had flooding and indoor air-quality issues at Chapel Hill High.”
Without the Lincoln Center renovations, the district runs the risk of being in violation of new state policy that reduces the maximum number of students per classroom at the elementary school level, officials said.
Board of Education member Rani Dasi said this was part of the reason she believes the district should prioritize Lincoln Center.
“My preference, I think, would be Lincoln Center because I think there’s also more time to revisit Chapel Hill High,” she said. “Maybe there’s some opportunities there where we can do more phasing than we have potential to do at Lincoln Center.”
The commissioners and school board now face a December 26 deadline to decide what to do next.
On that date, the current bids for the Lincoln Center project will expire and if they ask for bids again, it is likely they will receive bids higher than they currently have.
“We don’t have additional debt capacity,” said county commissioner Mia Burroughs. “The bottom line is we really have almost no more room for debt.”
The county commissioners created a working group to help come up with a solution to the funding problems for these projects. The commissioners have two meetings before the December 26 deadline.