In order to see how the proposed project for Amherst compares to other MSBA projects, all available cost data was compiled for new construction on elementary schools (~37 total). The source data is found on the MSBA website (http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/CP_Information_Cost_Data). The projects were ranked using several different metrics: Total Project Cost (construction cost plus 25% soft costs; this is the amount that Town Meeting must appropriate), Construction Costs per square foot, Total Cost to the Town after MSBA reimbursement (that is, the amount of debt the voters would have to approve), and Total Cost per Pupil. Taken together, these four measures take into account the size of the projects based on both enrollment and gross square feet of the building. Estimates for the Amherst project are the most recent available from the District and documents submitted to the MSBA.
The proposed elementary school building project for Amherst ranks at or near the top for Total Project Cost (#1), Construction Cost /square foot (#3), and Total Cost to the Town (#1). These rankings are largely unchanged even when a 4% annual increase is applied to costs from the listed start year to 2016 (rankings are 1st, 2nd, and 1st). Amherst ranks #6 in Total Cost per Pupil, #10 when adjusted by 4%/yr.
Other graphs and tables can be found here:
The school administration has stated that the proposed Amherst project falls solidly in the middle of other MSBA projects. It is unclear how the District arrived at this conclusion; they have not provided the data upon which they make this claim and the information available through the MSBA on appropriate comparators – that is, only including elementary schools, new construction, core program – do not support their assertion.
The most recent cost estimates for the proposed project are also a far cry from the figures that were presented last year when the superintendent recommended reconfiguration. At that time, the new 750-student building was reported to cost about $20 million less with a reimbursement almost 10% higher than what we now know we could expect. This image is from the district’s presentation in October.