Garner Cleveland Record

District gambling with Vandora Springs renovations

It’s possible Vandora Springs Elementary may not get their major renovation after all.

Wake County Public School System leaders say higher-than-expected costs to build schools are forcing the them to delay funding for two projects – one of which is Vandora Springs Elementary – that were approved by voters in a 2013 referendum.

The major renovation of the school would, instead, be included in a proposed bond issue district leaders hope to put on the ballot in 2016.

If passed, then the renovations will continue as planned.

If voters happen to reject that bond, then there’s potential there won’t be any funding for the major renovation.

“I don’t like that at all,” town council member Kathy Behringer said. “I know they don’t have the funds they need and that’s understandable. But to say they are going to put it in a bond referendum and not do it. It’s not acceptable. It makes me mad.”

Voters approved an $810 million school construction bond issue in October 2013, paving the way for $990 million in projects. But since then, bids for projects have consistently come in over projections. An additional $50 million is needed to cover the increases in costs.

By delaying Vandora Springs renovations, and a new school in Fuquay-Varina, the district could reallocate $42 million, said Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities.

Renovations were expected to begin in 2017 – after the latest school board update – and conclude in August 2018. Most of the campus was supposed to be renovated. The previous plan was to demolish the front of the school building B, which was built in 1990 and swing the school to the new Bryan Road Elementary School.

Desormeaux said the district chose to delay Vandora Springs Elementary because it was one of two schools that didn’t need to start its construction until after the 2016 bond. He said the projects are still in the design phase.

“This allows us to keep those projects on schedule,” he said.

But putting a new bond in the hands of voters is still a gamble. There’s always the possibility that voters reject the bond.

School principal Troy Peuler, who has served as the school’s principal for 14 years, said parents have expressed their concern with the district’s recent decision. However, he declined to comment on any specifics.

“Our school staff and community look forward to having a new building, and we’re hoping to have it as soon as possible,” Peuler said.

The final decision on putting a school bond on the ballot rests with the commissioners, who are already expected to put a referendum on the 2016 ballot asking voters to support raising the sales tax rate to pay for a transit plan.

Behringer said the town council will probably discuss amongst themselves what they can do going forward.

T. Keung Hui contributed to this story

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Twitter: @GarnerCleveland