Rising prices could delay the Lebanon School District’s plan to address overcrowding, which is centered around the construction of a new middle school next to the existing Lebanon High School.
The district had hoped to open bids on Aug. 15 and break ground later this year, but on Aug. 1 it published a public notice stating that “[d]ue to inflation and other current bidding and construction challenges,” the project’s cost could exceed the maximum cost presented at a public hearing held last October.
At the time, the school board authorized a “maximum building cost” of $49,409,017 and a “maximum project cost” of $57,261,548. It planned to use cash reserves and federal COVID relief money to pay for the new school, part of an ambitious five-year plan to alleviate the chronic overcrowding throughout city public schools.
According to the public notice, “[a]n updated description of the Project, including facts with respect to education, physical, administrative, and updated budgetary and fiscal matters related to the actual bids” will be available for public inspection at the district offices, 1000 S. 8th St., starting Thursday, Aug. 18.
The school district’s notice says that a second public hearing, “if needed,” will be held on Monday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. in the Lebanon High auditorium “for the purpose of reviewing all relevant matters in relation to the construction of a new Lebanon Middle School.”
“Supply chain issues and inflation cause potential construction challenges in predicting things like delivery of building materials and job completion timelines, as well as complicate accurate bidding, as there remains uncertainty in not knowing how these two factors might play out over the next two years,” district superintendent Arthur Abrom told LebTown.
Even so, Abrom says the plan to pay for the new middle school without borrowing or raising taxes remains in place.
“Our intent remains the same regardless; to pay for the new middle school project in cash and take occupancy of the new building in September of 2024,” he said.
At the end June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the consumer price index was up 9.1% from a year before, the largest increase since 1982. July figures had not been released as of publication time.
Abrom said that bids will be opened on Aug. 16, and “[n]ot knowing what we will receive, we are being proactive and scheduling a potential ACT34 meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 22nd, prior to our special Board meeting scheduled at 7:00 p.m.”
“Our plan is to approve the bids at the special Board meeting that night. Depending on what the bids reveal, we will either hold or cancel the second scheduled ACT34 meeting. An additional meeting may be required depending on the bids in totality, if they exceed what we presented at our previous ACT34 meeting.”
Pennsylvania’s Act 34 of 1973 requires public meetings for new school construction projects and for substantial additions to existing school buildings.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership and join now here.