Anticipated school construction/capital needs to reach $12.8 billion in five years: State survey

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North Carolina’s school districts say they will need $12.8 billion in the next five years, a 58.68% increase from 2015.

The 2020 Facility Needs Survey is to be presented to the North Carolina State Board of Education today (Sept. 1), and it indicates a severe shortfall in resources for necessary school construction work.

The state has provided $838 million in capital funds (primarily through the Education Lottery) and 17 counties have passed local bond referenda for school capital projects, representing about $3.4 billion in debt.

By state law, North Carolina’s counties are responsible for paying for physical school infrastructure, WRAL-TV reports.

The report compiled this year is based on estimates fro 2020, and doesn’t break down whether needs from the last survey are carried over to the more recent survey, but districts were asked not to include cost estimates for projects already under way.

Previous surveys since 2000 have seen an increase of between $6 and $10 million, so this survey indicates a greater need for capital work than anytime in the past two decades.

The survey indicates that districts require about half the funds for new schools or school editions, and of these, about half are elementary schools. Part of the demand for elementary schools relates to a state-law mandated reduction in class sizes from kindergarten to the third grade.

Almost half of the money is expected to be needed for renovations, including $473 million for roof repairs and $693.6 million to improve HVAC systems. It is possible that COVID-19 influenced the ventilation systems requirements, which would be eligible for federal stimulus funds.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which administers the survey, recommended that school districts calculate construction costs based at $250 per square foot, an increase from $194 per square foot for the 2015-16 survey. Costs have been rising during recent years, but it isn’t certain that even revised square footage cost properly covers the rapid escalation in construction prices after the pandemic.

The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools anticipates $1.2 billion in construction requirements during the next five years, up from $390.4 million five years ago. Guilford County Schools reported $1.2 billion in construction needs, an increase from $686.9 million five years ago.

Less dramatically, the Wake County Public School System’s reported construction needs rose by less than $300 million, to $1.1 billion. All three counties approved local school bond issues in the last five years, each totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, though less than the reported construction needs, the broadcaster reports.

Notably, renovation costs are the biggest increase — both in dollar terms (about $2.5 billion) and by percentage (81.6%).

The biggest increase in needs, in dollars and percent change is about $2.5 billion in renovation costs, an 81.8% increase — now totaling $5.6 billion. Districts reported needing $2.1 billion more this time around in new school construction costs — now totaling about $4.8 billion.

HVAC and roof repair needs more than doubled since the last report, up from $342.6 million and $222.2 million, respectively. The other big increase in renovation costs was parking and driveway needs, rising from $111.4 million to $205.6 million.

See the survey here2109_BSOP_8_FNS_2020_Report_FINAL_-_2021-08-25_2755693hvsgnrblescr15gd3kacqoz-DMID1-5s26byplt

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