Part 3: The $81.2M School Bond • 2016 • Blakely Elementary Cost

Key takeaways from of Parts 1 and 2:

• Wilkes (opened 2012) cost (BISD data) $28.92M, BISD requesting for $39M for Blakely.

• BISD construction cost comparisons are significantly biased. Blakely Elementary is a 37% smaller school in both square feet and student load than 4 of the 6  the BISD cost comparisons.

 $175/yr tax for 2017 for median assessed value residence stated by BISD is understated. Actual is about $222, and that is for only the first of three bonds that will be sold in sequential years.

• Annual taxes to service the $81.2 M bond will rise substantially after 2017.

• Total median residential taxpayer costs will be in the range of $10,000 to $12,310 over the next  22 years.

• Bonds are backloaded and interest costs alone are estimated at $62.5M.


Let’s look at elementary school costs. This is going to get a little detailed and technical, so try not lose focus. Or go to the conclusion line if you become lost,  bored,  or are detail adverse.

2016 NBCM

The 2016 construction cost estimator is the 2016 National Building Cost Manual (NBCM). The Bainbridge Island library has a copy available (they purchased one at my request). It’s call number is 692.5097 NATION, and there are too many pages and explanations to show every page reference in a blog, so visit the library if you feel you need to confirm the accuracy of the following cost calculations.

The NBCM cost of new elementary schools is divided into two major construction types: Masonry and Concrete (MC) or Wood and Steel Frame (WS).

MC construction is about 15% higher cost than WS. The architectural plans are yet to be prepared for Blakely , but for this estimate, I’ll use the higher masonry/concrete cost.

Next major determinate is the quality class of the building. The NBCM breaks schools down into four cost classes (best, good, average, low).

For Bainbridge, only the best will do. I’ll use best (No.1 quality).

A key cost determinate is average building wall heights. Wall heights will vary for classrooms vs. gymnasium, for example. I’ll use an overall building average height of 20 feet.

The cost per square foot for a school built for a student load of 450 students at 140 sq. ft. per student (state recommends 125 sq. ft., but most new elementary schools in Western Washington are being constructed about 140 sq. ft.):    450 (students) X 140 (sq. ft. per student) = 63,000 sq. ft.

That’s very close to the size of Wilkes, although the BISD has 8 different sq. ft. measurements for Wilkes depending on what question or position they want to make. There still is no agreed to Washington State standard for school size comparisons.

The NCBM high end cost with best construction for a single story school with a 20 foot average wall height is $245.12 sq. ft. X 63,000 = $15.44M.

The Seattle area is a higher than average national building cost area, and the 2016 construction cost index for Seattle is +11%, so the Seattle  regional building cost increases construction costs to $17.14M.

But, we are on an island, and that adds to costs … Robinson estimates +5%.  That is reasonable.

That brings the estimated construction cost to $18.0M, or about $286 per sq. ft.

The NBCM cost estimate includes foundations (normal soil conditions), floor, wall, roof structures, interior ceiling, wall and floor finishes (including carpet), exterior wall finish and roof cover, interior partitions, basic lighting and electrical systems, rough and finish plumbing, design and engineering fees, typical permit and hook-up fees, and typical contractor mark-up. Some of these costs mostly in bold) are what the BISD estimator (Robinson Company) considers as soft costs.

It does not include the costs of canopies and canopy lighting, public address, intercom and security systems, docks and ramps, fire extinguishers and fire sprinklers, heating and cooling systems, exterior signs, walkways, paving, curbing, or yard improvements.

Add $1.5M for a heating and cooling system, $.5M for fire systems, and $.5M for security and communications, and 8.7% for taxes (that’s generous … not all construction costs are taxed, and not all are at the local tax rate of 8.7%), and the construction costs total about $24.5M.

There are no known land acquisition costs at Blakely.

There is a fairly lengthy shopping list of additional costs when completing a school.The big ones (using Wilkes 2011-12 costs):
Furniture and equipment                $.75M
Technology Equipment                    $.35M (Note: BISD also has a Technology Levy)
Commissioning and Staff Costs    $.20M
Curriculum Material                           $.13M
Custodian Supplies                            $.03M

So roughly $1.5M in equipage and getting ready costs. Those were 2012 prices, so about $1.8 million in 2017-8 (inflation) costs.

Wilkes had nearly $.5 in off-site improvement costs, and that is still an unknown for Blakely. Those are generally sewer and water service costs.

Add $1M for exterior paving, playground improvements, sidewalks, etc.

Add another $.6 M for demolishing and removing the existing Blakely school.

So using the National Building Code Manual (best quality) for Blakely Elementary is in the general range of $27.9M.

That’s just slightly less than what Wilkes cost, but there should be a reasonable inflation cost kicker because construction will start in 2017. Although recent materials inflation has been negative, a 2% increase is logical to be on the safe side.

Bottom line … using the National Building Cost Manual, the cost of a new Blakely should be very close to what Wilkes cost …  in the $28.8M range.

That, of course, is mostly using data from a respected 2016 cost estimation book.  But it also comes close to validating  the cost comparisons of the six schools the BISD used for cost comparisons … they are about 37% larger that what is proposed for Blakely, and that would put them in the $40M+ range, and some of those schools have full food preparation kitchens which is high cost and Blakely is not expected to include (BISD generally uses a central kitchen and distribution to schools since they are not located long distances apart).

Conclusion: A bond amount of $39M for Blakely is about $9 million more than what the school should cost.  Blakey Elementary replacement should be in the range of $29M-$30M.