Three Million Dollars Explained

An anonymous commenter over at A Blog About School has challenged the three million dollars per acre figure for acquiring the Hoover Elementary property for use by City High.

Sounds great except for the multiple flaws in the reasoning. Bringing Hoover up to standards with a multipurpose room addition, accessibility renovations, new HVAC system, and window replacement would cost $5 million. Then there are the years of ongoing inefficiencies of running a 300 capacity school vs. a newer 500 capacity school. Then there is the continued bussing of students from the Windsor Ridge area. I’d rather have the new elementary and space for the area’s landlocked high school. Everyone at Hoover can walk to one of the 5 surrounding elementary schools.

Here’s the deal: the cost of acquiring the Hoover Elementary property for use by City High is the cost of replacing Hoover’s capacity; all the children who are or would have been served by Hoover Elementary must have some place else to attend school.  In addition, we’ll include the cost of demolition of the Hoover building to make way for parking, athletic fields, or  a City High addition.

So, what is the cost of replacing Hoover’s capacity?  Using the Facilities Master Planning documents we have two options:

New elementary ($14.5 million) + demolition ($0.5 million) = $15 million acquisition cost to relocate Hoover students and prepare the property for use by City High.

Alternatively, we can use the numbers for adding six classrooms to Lemme ($7.9 million ) and ten classrooms to Longfellow ($13.6 million) from Scenario 2 (in which Hoover is retired), which, to be fair, we will reduce by the cost of the planned upgrades/maintenance without classroom additions from Scenario 4 (in which Hoover is not retired) and we arrive at a cost to replace Hoover capacity at $14.6 million [Lemme ($7.9 million less $1.9 million) plus Longfellow ($13.6 million less $5 million)].

New capacity at Lemme and Longfellow ($14.6 million) + demolition ($0.5 million) = $15.1 million acquisition cost to relocate Hoover students and prepare the property for use by City High.

Either way, the numbers work out to roughly $3 million per acre.

The fact that students currently zoned for Hoover might be able to walk to other elementary schools still doesn’t reduce the acquisition cost of the property for use by City High, as new construction will be required to make room for those students at other elementary schools.

The fact that Hoover Elementary, if not retired, might receive $5 million in upgrades/maintenance doesn’t affect the acquisition cost of the property for use by City High just like the potential cost of repairs for my old car doesn’t earn me a discount on the price of a replacement new car.

I think the commenter is raising a different question: does it make sense to spend $15 million on new construction to avoid $5 million of upgrades/maintenance?

Here are a few more questions: Does spending the extra $10 million generate in excess of $10 million dollars in efficiencies?  ( I haven’t seen any real numbers on this–if anyone has them, please leave a comment.)  Why spend $15 million to purchase the capacity we could get for the price of $5 million in upgrades/maintenance?  And do we really have the extra $10 million to spend?  (This is a question voters will ultimately have to answer–the planned spending exceeds what is expected from bonding against expected SAVE revenue.)

However you slice it, we’re still looking at $3 million per acre to acquire the Hoover Elementary property for use by City High.  Is it worth it?  That seems to me to be a question worthy of continued public debate.

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