Low interest rates, a high-demand bond market and a good bond rating will save Rochester Public Schools nearly $43 million in interest payments over the next 20 years.
The Rochester School Board approved sale of $180.9 million in voter-approved bonds Tuesday night at a 2.248% interest rate.
In November, voters approved $180.9 million in bonding for construction of three elementary schools, a middle school and the addition of a pool to Century High School. Before the election, district officials estimated interest rates on the bond to be about 4%. The lower rate in the sale to Baird, of Red Bank, N.J., approved Tuesday will mean taxpayers will pay $42.9 million less than those estimates over the 20-year life of the bonds.
To move forward on the projects the bonds will fund, the school board also approved hiring Knutson Construction as construction manager for $6.1 million in building security improvement projects and the $8.1 million for the Century High School pool construction and Mayo High School pool improvements. The construction management contract was for $499,352.
Two firms submitted bids, and both had good credentials, said Scott Sherden, district executive director of operations.
“It basically came down to what the lowest fee was,” Sherden told the board.
Board member Mark Schleusner said he expects Knutson to help coordinate public input on the pool designs like the company is already tasked with doing for the school building designs.
“We’ve got a very excited group of people, and we want to make sure they’re involved,” Schleusner said.
Knutson officials also briefed the board on timelines for the new school construction projects. The four schools will be constructed in staggered schedules, according to preliminary plans. Once designs are approved, construction on the middle school and the first elementary school would begin in the fall. Construction of the two elementary schools would begin in the summer of next year.
“Our goal was to not flood the market with all four schools at once,” said Keane McWaters, Knutson project manager. The staggered construction schedules will keep the market open for more contractors to bid on the projects, he added.
Another reason to stagger the construction is due to current plans to reconstruct Longfellow Elementary School hinging on a land swap with the city. Current plans call for rebuilding the school as a 720-capacity school at city-owned McQuillan Field and handing the city the school building and school district land. The proposal is still under review. If the proposal falls through, the new elementary school would house Longfellow students, while the standing Longfellow building is demolished and a new school is built on the site, Rochester Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz told the board.
Part of the construction timeline also includes time to gather public input on the school designs. Input will be gathered from the public, but also design teams made up of district officials, school administrators, students, faculty and staff.
“We want to make sure as many people who want to have input have spots and have input,” said Deborah Seelinger, who was appointed board chairwoman Tuesday night.