Spiking construction costs affect Tooele school projects

Mar 3, 2022, 6:19 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:45 pm
(KSL TV)...

TOOELE, Utah – Rising construction costs are putting a financial strain on the Tooele School District. 

It is short about $55 million to build a new junior high school. 

Construction prices in Utah have spiked 40% in the last year. 

“We’re just seeing unexpected, unprecedented cost escalation here in the last year,” said Kendall Smith, vice president of the building division for Hughes General Contractors. 

It’s a real sticker shock for Smith’s clients. 

He’s currently working with the Tooele County School District. 

“We’re going to have to look at the projects we have going forward,” said Mark Ernst, Interim Superintendent of Schools for Tooele County School District. 

In 2020, voters approved a $170 million dollar bond to build an elementary, junior high and high school in Tooele County. 

Here’s a breakdown of how the district planned on spending that money: 

Prices have jumped significantly and now the district says it won’t have enough money to build the junior high. 

“55 million dollars is our worst-case scenario,” said Ernst. 

This appears to be a trend all across the state. 

“Every school district that has budgeted 2, 3 years ago are experiencing the same thing,” said Smith. 

Twenty Wells Elementary is set to open this fall in Grantsville City. Deseret Peak High School will have a groundbreaking next month and the new junior high school is expected to begin construction in Stansbury Park in 2021. 

For now, the district said it’s working on a plan with contractors to cut costs and generate more money. That could mean projects will be put on hold. 

“Really looking very hard at how we are spending our money to make sure we can do right by our voters,” said Ernst. 

Smith said tough decisions are coming but he cautioned some cuts might be more expensive down the road.  

“It’s a shame to cut square footage and then realize two years later that you would need it and now it costs even more for that square footage. That’s something that they have to wrestle with.” 

Tooele School District said one of the options it will not consider right now is asking voters to approve another bond. 

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Spiking construction costs affect Tooele school projects