Begin Some School Improvements Soon

Through no fault of their own, Ohio County Board of Education members have been put in a hurry-up-and-wait situation. Dealing effectively with it could help taxpayers get more bang for our bucks.

In May, local voters approved sale of $42.2 million in bonds to help finance a major school improvement project. Combined with an anticipated $27 million from the state School Building Authority and $6.3 million in savings from increased energy efficiency, that was aimed at funding $75.5 million in better school facilities.

Trouble is, $75.5 million doesn’t buy what it used to, even last spring.

School board members were told last week that construction costs have increased and probably will continue doing so. That may force officials to make some adjustments in the project.

Some cushion was built into financial projections for the plan, so there is no reason to be especially worried — for now. But if construction costs keep trending upward, they could be a problem.

One obstacle is that higher tax revenue authorized by voters cannot begin flowing until next year. Meanwhile, each dollar of revenue becomes worth less in terms of paying for improvements.

It has been suggested the board pass something called a “reimbursement resolution” that would allow them to begin spending money on the construction work sooner than next year.

That sounds like an excellent idea. In consultation with those in the construction industry, board members should determine what particular aspects of the project are likely to rise in cost faster than others.

Then, as soon as possible, arrangements should be made to enter into contracts for such work. In the context of a $75.5 million plan, that could produce critical savings — and better schools.

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