I don't have the details, but I understand that the last time the Board of Education looked into the option of renovating older schools instead of replacing them was back in 1999, when The New England School Development Council did a study of the issue.
To compare figures now, school officials are assuming those renovation costs have risen 7 percent annually since the study was done.
Comparing the cost of renovating the four schools eyed for closure with the tab for building two new ones to replace them, the city's share of the overall project would be some $10 million less, if the state matched the 73.9 percent reimbursement it's offering on the new school project.
I haven't done all the math yet, but the city's probably looking at about $30 million of its money for the two new schools, which I assume means that renovations would take about$20 million of the city's cash.
On the other hand, new schools would cost about $150,00 a year less in energy costs -- a figure that would grow if energy prices continue to rise. That adds up, but it would take at least 50 years for the energy savings alone to make up for the higher initial cost.
The cost of doing either renovations or new buildings is still going up 7 percent or more annually so the year's delay so far has already hit taxpayers for millions of dollars in additional funding.
That's why there's a pressing need to make a decision which way to go. Doing nothing isn't really an option because if the old schools are going to keep being used, they must be overhauled.
Hopefully, there will be even more information available at tonight's meeting of the City Council and the school building committees, which takes place at 6:30 in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall. I will probably try to live blog some of it at least.
I hope, too, that public officials keep in mind that while negotiations and prices can be done in secret session, the bigger issues on this must be done in public. Don't try to hide what the public needs to know.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org