Proposed budget includes expansion of Ohatchee High School
by Brian Anderson
Aug 23, 2013 | 3895 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Calhoun County Board of Education's proposed budget for the upcoming school year includes nearly $5 million in capital projects, including an addition to Ohatchee High School.

The first public hearing for the budget took place at the board's meeting on Thursday. Major expense projects outlined in the proposal included $200,000 for bathroom renovations at Wellborn High School and $125,000 for paving at the Career Technical Center. The majority of the expenses, however, were allocated to the Ohatchee High addition that received approval from a federal court in the last two weeks.

A board work session in the near future is expected to take up the project, which Calhoun County school Superintendent Joe Dyar hopes will add 12 classrooms and a computer lab to the high school.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of our youngsters,” Dyar said. “This addition will have 21st century capabilities to help our students.”

Dyar said Ohatchee High School is one of the oldest existing buildings in the county school system and was in need of an addition, despite maintaining enrollment levels for the last several years.

Although budgeted for the 2013-14 school year at $3 million, the project is listed in the school system’s five-year capital projects plan at $3.5 million. Lesley Bollendorf, chief financial officer for Calhoun County Schools, said the cost of the project will likely be closer to $4 million when she presents a revised draft of the budget at the next public hearing on Aug. 29.

If the budget is approved by the Board of Education, it would still need approval by the State Board of Education. The deadline to submit the budget is Sept. 15.

Consultants from Siemens Industry presented the board on Thursday with preliminary findings of an energy audit of several of the county’s schools, and estimated efficient energy upgrades could save the system up to $200,000 annually.

“Yes, this will save money, and I think everyone here would agree that’s a great thing,” said Thomas Erwin, a consultant with Siemens. “But the most important thing is this will help the students and foster a safe learning environment.”

Upgrades in the presentation included improving lighting levels in school hallways and upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and putting them on an automated system to limit use when the buildings are unoccupied.

Erwin said the upgrade to the school could take as little as 18 months. The total cost of the project was not discussed at the meeting.

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.
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