How Much? Early Hints on Cost, Reimbursement for New High School

Photo: A new school will be behind this sign within the next decade

So Belmont, are you ready to pay $140 million for a new 9-12 grade High School?

How about $175 million for a structure housing 8-12 grades?

And a whopping $211 million for 7-12 grades?

Now before residents begin forming pitchfork and torch brigades to march on the School Administration building, the proposed price tags are very rough and early estimates which were created by the 16-person Belmont High School Building Committee as part of the committee’s next step in a protracted journey to a new building, according to town and committee officials.

After successfully completing the initial eligability period in November – known as Module 1 – the Building Committee proceeds to Module 2 where they begin forming the school’s project team including a owner’s project manager and a designer.

“Now we’re off and running,” said Building Committee Chair William Lovallo as the project will begin to take shape with the first significant hirings.

But as the committee discovered during the initial module, working in partnership with the MSBA – which will – can be laborious. Hiring a project manager isn’t as simple as placing an ad and waiting for firms to respond. Rather, the MSBA requires a 25 step, five-month long process (Step 16: School Committee evaluates responses and prepares a short list of 3 to 5 firms) to select the person who’ll shepherd the project for what could be close to a decade until completion.

Not that Belmont will find it difficult to secure a big time manager Lovallo said since the district’s project is considered a plum assignment for most firms.

And part of the process is for the committee to come up with a very early idea of the possible cost of the structure when advertising for the manager post.

“The reality is the only reason [for the estimates for the three building types] is we had to put something [in the advertisement],” said Lovallo who put together a chart using the project costs from 13 new and one addition/renovation building projects financed by the MSBA.

Inputting number of students, square-footage of new schools, project budget with additional data, Lovallo came up with $95,053 for each student in the school in 2020. With an estimated enrollment of 1,470 (9-12) to 2,215 (7-12), the cost of the schools being designed will be impressive.

But Lovallo reiterated that “while these numbers are significant [in price], they are just numbers.”

“Until we know the programs, we have no real hard data just estimates,” he said.

While the Building Committee were estimating costs, the MSBA has preliminary results of its own – again early and rough – on the percentage the state would reimburse the town on construction costs.

Under a rate that will apply throughout the feasibility study process, Belmont will see a nearly 37 percent (actually 36.89 percent) of construction costs compensated. The rate was determined using a chart that included factors – such as income and property wealth – and incentives including energy efficiency and maintenance.

Only after the study is complete will the state determine Belmont’s final allowance.

In a rough estimate, the price tag of $140 million for a 9-12 school would be reduced by $52 million with the town paying $88 million.

While the meeting was dominated by charts and numbers, the committee began discussing the need for community outreach in promoting its work and keeping residents informed where in the process the project currently stands. A professional webpage and video presentations were two items that topped the list of public relations needs.

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