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School staff discusses capital budgeting

SALISBURY — As school system personnel began work on a monthslong budget season in early March, some funding needs were immediately apparent: salaries and benefits, student support services and school security among them.

The largest of these needs was capital, with the staff identifying just over $146 million in needed building repairs or replacements across the district.

In a budget message to the Rowan County commissioners, the staff prioritized $54.6 million of those facility renovations: $3.4 million in security improvements, $33.7 million in heating and air conditioning repairs and replacement, $900,000 in disabilities compliance, $12.6 million in roofing, $2.7 million in doors and hardware, and $1.3 million in potable water and water filtration.

But where did these estimates come from? Assistant Superintendent for Operations Anthony Vann explained the process during Monday’s Board of Education work session.

“Our facility capital outlay budget or project list, when we put it together each year, we discuss the needs of each school with school-based administration,” Vann said. “We talk to our maintenance personnel. They’re in and out of all the schools and understand the systems better than anyone.”

Numbers to be used in budget calculations are then calculated by the system’s construction staff and Vann himself.

“It’s based on local knowledge, experience, square footage and the type of construction,” he said. “Some of those things, we just know.”

Vann said the school system has too many capital outlay projects to get hard prices on each year as the staff compiles budget requests.

“We couldn’t find someone to give us those quotes all the time,” he said.

He said numbers could appear high because they include contingencies and estimates for unforeseen issues “that are not uncommon with a certain type of work.”

“If the job is going to come to fruition, then we’ll do a complete set of specs, get a hard price on it,” he said. “Most of time, we’re pretty close.”

With the new West Rowan Elementary School, for example, Vann said a budgeted dollar amount was “just a few dollars off.”

“We can’t do our work in schools like somebody would do their home,” said Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Pavements needed to be thicker for buses, for example, or door handles must meet fire codes, she said.

“The requirements for our safety and our OSHA standards are at government level. They’re not just like you would do in our home,” said Moody.

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