Oshkosh Area School District Navigates Construction Cost Challenges

Remains Committed to Building for the Future and Prioritizing Safety

It continues to be an exciting time for the Oshkosh Area School District and the entire Oshkosh community, with extensive progress being made toward the development of the new northside middle school. In December, the school was officially named the Vel Phillips Middle School and groundbreaking is expected to happen in the coming weeks (Spring 2022). The City of Oshkosh approved the planned development process for the school and the final step before construction can start is getting site plan approval from the City Planning and Engineering departments. The District also completed its first round of secure entrance projects at five school sites during the summer - Carl Traeger Elementary and Middle, Emmeline Cook Elementary, Lakeside Elementary, Franklin Elementary, and South Park Middle. 

Like many other industries, the Oshkosh Area School District is overcoming challenges related to supply chain issues, labor shortages and rising construction material costs. While the District was proactive - and even overly cautious - in its approach to construction project planning, it is needing to problem solve in order to work within budget constraints and limited interest from contractors. 

Simply put:

  • The Vel Phillips Middle School is approximately $4.6 million over budget due to a 9% overage in the lowest/accepted contractor bid. 
  • The second round of secure entrance projects is stalled due to only one interested contractor submitting a bid, which was more than double the anticipated amount (this does not meet the District’s two-bid minimum policy, nor does it allow for a competitive cost environment). NOTE: The schools impacted by this project delay are Read, Oakwood, Oshkosh North, and Oshkosh West.

The District remains committed to being fiscally responsible while following through on its promises to build for the next 100+ years and prioritize safety. Due to the realities stated above, the District is postponing the secure entrance projects until later in the year and is diverting $4 million of the funds originally slated for those projects to the Vel Phillips Middle School project. The District will also continue to work with Miron Construction and Bray Architects to find areas to save money while still bringing as much value to the project as possible - a process known as value-engineering. This decision will ensure that the Vel Phillips Middle School is equipped to function appropriately for the life of the building. It will also allow all of the secure entrance projects to be rebid and completed, in what is hopefully a more competitive market.

Clearly, the current cost and bid realities are not ideal. However, it is important to understand that the extra costs the District is navigating are not being passed down to the taxpayer. Instead, it is a matter of the District needing to find ways to absorb the higher prices, while not compromising the overall value of any project. However, as reported last year the District was able to secure $17 million in interest savings as a result of its borrowing schedule for this current total referendum project. This interest savings did result in a lower mill rate for taxpayers. The current impact from referendum debt in 2021-22 was $0.36, which was down twelve cents from the pre-referendum estimates of $0.48. 

The age-old saying of “timing is everything” continues to be true. As the District navigates many factors that are currently out of its control, it is grateful for the continued support of the Oshkosh community. The OASD is committed to doing what is best for students while investing in schools to positively impact Oshkosh for generations to come.

Stay in the know! Since the voter-approved November 2020 referendum, the District has been hard at work developing plans to address facility needs. Monthly progress reports are published and available on the OASD Referendum webpage, with the goal of creating a shared understanding of the District's ongoing referendum work.