New performing arts center faces budget trims

By Chris Eversole

The Mustang Board of Education sees the new performing arts center as the school district’s showplace, but a tough construction market may lessen its visual impact.

Board member Jeff Landrith complained about the possible trims on the building at Monday’s board meeting.

He noted that the board set high expectations when it touted the performing arts center as part of a $180 million bond issue that passed in 2017.

“The voters approved a first-class facility that we’re pulling back from,” he said.

Superintendent Charles Bradley responded that bids on some subcontracts on the $33 million projects were coming in over budget.

“The bids are what they are,” he said.

Landrith asked if administrators could find additional money elsewhere in the district’s budget.

Bradley declined to do so.

“We’re not going to steal from a whole lot of other pots,” he said.

Landrith commented before the board approved tentative reductions:

One changed the wall coatings from a heavily textured product to a slightly textured vinyl product at a savings of $91,000.

The other reduced the parking spaces devoted to the building by 77 – to 250 – for a $65,000 savings.

Bradley said the building still would be excellent.

“We’re not going to let it go cheap,” he said.

Landrith asked Chief Financial Officer Nancy McKay if money from reserves could she used.

She responded that the district needs to keep its reserves of $13.5 million intact because of the cost of opening two new buildings in the fall – a new middle school and a high school science academy.

Mustang schools added a new two schools this past fall – Meadow Brook Intermediate and Riverwood Elementary. The addition of new schools is costly because of adding staff, operating the schools and equipping them, McKay said.

As a result, the district’s budget went from $60.7 million for the 2017-18 school year to $74.5 million for this school year, and it will be $81 million next school year.

“I would recommend that you not (tap reserves) until you’re not opening new schools the next year,” McKay said.

Some reductions that are being made at this point could be restored if the project’s contingency hasn’t been spent as the work nears completion, Bradley said.

The auditorium will seat 1,500 people. In addition to the parking spaces devoted to the building, other parking on the high school campus will be used for event that occur after hours, noted Heath Tate, a partner in MA+ Architecture.

Some bids are coming in over budget because of rising costs for steel and other materials, he said.

Construction of the performing arts center is expected to be completed in July 2020.

The approximately 65,000-square-foot building will have an auditorium and art gallery, and it will house high school choir, theater, stage production and dance classes.

This rendering shows the proposed performing arts center. A tough construction market could, however, led to modifications. Photo / Courtesy

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