The Cleveland Board of Education hopes to cut the price for the new Cleveland High School gymnasium by $1 million or more during the bid process.
The decision to change the maximum the school system would pay from $12 million to $11 million came during a special called session Monday.
The request was the only item on the agenda.
At the last Cleveland City Council meeting, District 5 Councilman Dale Hughes voiced a request for the board to consider contributing $1 million to the project from its fund balance.
Previously the school system had not allocated any funding to the project.
“We just can’t afford to take $1 million from our fund balance. Our budget is really, really tight also,” board chairman Tom Cloud said.
He said decreasing the cost of the project was seen as a good solution.
“It’s the same as giving $1 million back,” Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff said.
Ringstaff pointed out the price could be decreased by having certain elements bid as options instead of being a part of the core bid package.
Cloud said this would likely mean eliminating the community room and scaling back on other items.
Listing nonessential elements of the project as alternatives in the bid process will give the board flexibility to choose what it wants to eliminate and what it wants to keep, based on prices.
“We need a gym, but we don’t want to waste money,” Ringstaff said.
In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Hughes said, “I am very pleased that the school board and the director of schools have decided to grant my request — the Council’s request — for a decrease of $1 million.”
In a letter to the Cleveland City Council, Cloud and Ringstaff thanked the Council for committing $12 million to the project, but said the school system cannot contribute the proposed $1 million.
“The call for the Cleveland City Schools Board of Education to use $1,000,000 of our fund balance simply cannot happen. Our fund balance is used to cover months when tax money hasn’t come in yet from the City of Cleveland and Bradley County. We hover just above the 3 percent Fund Balance required by the state,” the letter stated.
The letter was signed by Cloud and Ringstaff.
Ringstaff said 3 percent of the school system budget must be held in a fund balance in order for the school board to have discretion over the funds. Any school system with a fund balance lower than 3 percent must seek state approval before using those funds. Ringstaff said a fund balance of 5 to 15 percent is suggested.
Cleveland City Schools’ fund balance is approximately $2.3 million. The city of Cleveland has $12.1 million in its fund balance.
The letter also listed projects that had been funded through the half-cent sales increase in 2009, emphasizing the point that the funds could not be used for the gymnasium project. This year the increase has been allocated for a “new roof for George R. Stuart gymnasium [and] painting interior of building at E.L. Ross Elementary.”
A complete list of capital projects completed with the funds is available at http://www.clevelandschools.org.
“The individuals on the Council who voted for this project were very passionate about it and felt it was in the best interest for the young people at Cleveland High,” Hughes said.
He said moving forward with the project will also have a positive impact on the middle school because it will no longer be sharing facilities.
The City Council passed a motion to approve the funding for the gymnasium project during a meeting in March.