Tablet Local

Fort Worth bond panel asks for list of ‘at risk’ projects

The advisory committee that is scrutinizing expenditures under the Fort Worth school district’s $490 million bond program wants to zero in on the “at risk” school construction projects most likely to bust their projected budgets.

Committee Chairman Isaac Manning asked district staff to come up with a list of projects “where we have the greatest risk exposure on cost overruns.”

Committee members “will feel better if they can see where the risk lies,’’ Manning said Monday night during a committee meeting.

School administrators are trying to reduce costs on projects approved by voters last year because projected costs are proving to be far below current market rates.

So far, interim Superintendent Pat Linares is recommending that the district consider “potential savings” of $45 million. Linares’ proposal includes building fewer pre-kindergarten and regular classroom additions and deferring maintenance at school facilities and buildings. Linares is also recommending that the district not spend money immediately for new auditorium seating at 13 high schools.

Linares’ proposal is expected to be presented to trustees for a vote Dec. 9.

Almost every project in the 2013 referendum was based on a square-footage cost far below the market now, said Vicki Burris, chief officer for capital projects administration. The bond was passed on a price projection of $180 per square foot, but construction contractors are saying the work cannot be accomplished for less than $216 per square foot.

So far, the district has committed $43 million in bond funds to numerous contractors and vendors, officials said.

Under Manning’s plan for prioritizing bond projects, every project is expected to be grouped into one of four categories, such as new construction, renovations of existing schools, classroom additions and retrofitting of existing schools.

The committee hopes to receive the “at risk” school construction report at its Dec. 15 meeting.