Comments of the Day: $65 Million Price Tag for a New HMS is Common Core Math at its Worst! We Urge Our Readers to Opt Out!
Wednesday night, we received two comments that merit publication as Comments of the Day. Both are copied below and directly question the accuracy of the cost comparison information that has been publicly released by the Facilities Committee, D181 Administration, HMS Project Architect and Pro-referendum group. All of these sources have made a big deal about comparing (or publishing the district's comparisons of) the $65 million proposal for a new HMS to Hubble Middle School or to what CHMS would cost to build today. Read the two comments below and then ask yourselves why you should trust any of the cost representations that D181 staff/committees/architect/pro-referendum groups are spinning as justification for the ridiculously high cost proposed to build a new HMS. As always, SOUND OFF! Comments of the Day:
Jon Clopton said...
I am for a new HMS middle school. The old facility is clearly outdated and a nightmare. However, this extravagance of this administration is compelling me to vote no. The bottom line everything over 35M is crazy. I'll vote yes to anything up to $40, maybe even $45M but this crazy spending needs to be curtailed.
181 had a crazy piece on explaining how they arrived at $65M comparing to CHMS, but the facts were at best misleading and really fraudulent. They must have been taught Common Core Math.
Their position was CHMS was cost $17.2M, but the real construction cost was 12.8M (as approved), with the overage being 4-5M for legal costs between the district and the park district (pretty stupid) but clearly not going to happen here. They used an expensive inflation factor AND compared 1998 (when bond was approved) versus 2017 (when HMS would be completed) which still makes is $26M using 12.8M actual cost. With space for 50% more student capacity (at high levels) it would only be $39M (clearly not close 65), and frankly should be less than 50% increase (as an example: a 5th BR to a 4 house doesn't add 25% more space total, but probably 10% or less). Using CPI as inflation the cost would be less than $30M using the same criteria and adding 50%.
In this article, 181 points to a construction cost of around $400 per square foot (which is what the cost is). How crazy is that? Well taking a look at comparable recently completed middle schools the average is around $200/sq. ft. and here are a few sources for that information:
1. Illinoishttps://www.illinois.gov/cdb/services/Documents/School%20Construction%20Law%20Project%20Standards%20Oct%202010.pdf web site shows $195 sq.ft as standard (which again is $33M at full size, which isn’t needed). 2. Attached (SPM construction) is all middle schools in 2012, with Middle school for 650 students costing 22M (again multiply by 50%) and you're at $33M. 3. Another Virginia web site http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/facility_construction/school_construction/costs/ shows average square ft cost as $200/sq ft. AND a average cost of $30ish Million for 2 middle schools completed in 2015 (under $30M for the school approximately the same size). Virginia is pretty expensive, by the way. 4. Chicago's most recent was $34M for 900 students. Dr. Jorge Prieto Math & Science Academy 2009 $36,852,201 105,576 900 $40,947 14 months
More recent conversation has turned to Highland Parks $85M Middle School. First, that includes land acquisition cost. Second, it seats 2000 students (at 90% capacity) so at least should be 2x our cost, and thus Hinsdale should cost $42.5, after backing out land, more towards $40M. In addition, this Middle school is HIGHLY contested because of crazy spending too. I’m sorry, just because someone overspends doesn’t mean we should.
Thus the range for comparable recent bills is $29M (using Virginia and CPI) to $40M (using Highland park’s high cost, and yet to be approved). We can clearly get a top quality new school for $35M.
Why is our design so much more? Is it this administration who has stars in their eyes, and a board who seems willing to go along with this unnecessary extravagance? A track, really? An auditioriom because apparently 181 and 86 can’t talk to each (talk about too much government).
It could be the process? 181 only had three proposals, whereas typically 10-13 firms submit proposals. I was told by one friend, whose firms builds schools in expensive districts that the requirements to submit an initial proposal (before being selected as a finalist) would have cost over $100k, and contained unnecessary provisions. They also weren’t allowed time to discuss with the administration or community to get an idea of what was wanted/required (thus they were shooting at the dark and it was going to cost a lot of money) so they made the good business decision to not submit a proposal. Eliminating options makes projects more expensive.
Ok, so I just did a little research on Hubble Middle school. As you know, this is the main comp that the facilities committee, the architect and the Hinsdalean have been using to justify the $65 million price tag.
The architect stated at the BOE meeting, and again in last week's Hinsdalean, that Hubble cost $58 million to build in 2008 and that equals $75 in 2017 dollars, when the bulk of HMS construction takes place.
Like Jon said, the math used to justify this whole project is common core math. Here is why:
1. Hubble cost $50 million to build not $58 million. A simple google search shows that $8 mil was a land purchase. We are not purchasing land. Therefore, $50 million is our comp number.
2. Hubble middle school is 190,00 square feet. The new HMS is 160,000 square feet - a 30,000 square foot difference. 30,000 square feet at $400/ft (the cost in the current plan per square foot) is $12 million. Therefore, if we are comparing apples to apples, our Hubble comp is actually 38 Million (which ironically aligns to Jon's figures outlined above).
3. $38 million in 2008 does not equal $75 million or even $65 million today. Not even close. Jon is right - it's common core math. I'm opting out of both.