- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Falling oil prices may mean lower-than-expected costs for school construction projects in Houston.

The Houston Independent School District, which passed a historic $1.9 billion bond issue in 2012, faced high building costs due to a robust construction market. District officials say the drop in crude oil prices may help ease budget strains. The Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1tWmXGm ) reports that district will delay projects for several months so it can solicit better bids for construction.

District officials estimated in 2012 that the cost of building new schools would be an average of $160 per square foot. That price has since risen to about $210 per square foot.

As an example, bids to build a new Mandarin immersion school were around $246 per square foot. Staffers are trying to get that down to around $200 per square foot.

District officials have been reviewing their plans to find other ways to reduce costs, such as using cheaper materials and possibly excluding an auditorium, swimming pool or dance room planned for high school campuses. They say they are using about half of their contingency fund to have money available for construction.



District board members were told in an email by district officer Robert Sands that nine of the 25 projects were proceeding as scheduled, while the other 16 are being reviewed. Sands said, “We will not cut corners, and we are committed to treating each and every school community equitably.”

Other school districts are also dealing with uncertainty about the cost of building plans.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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