Friday, November 03, 2006

Elmbrook Schools: It'll Be at Least $100 Million

The Elmbrook school district has been trying to Do Something about its high school buildings for a few years, but has failed to get traction with taxpayers. That's because the numbers are simply huge.

So Elmbrook changed tactics and hired someone whose job is to show the Fourth Estate (and other local officials) how awful the existing buildings really are.

Timing could have been better--there's an election coming up, and the ink-stained wretches have been busy there. But hey...

Elmbrook managed to corral a few local officials and show them a damp basement or two:

Elected officials representing the four communities in Elmbrook School District's boundaries - Brookfield, Elm Grove, New Berlin and the Town of Brookfield - were invited to attend a focus group to learn about and offer feedback on the building plans.

Asked whether the projected cost and tax impact were in an acceptable range, Speaker said the costs were necessary to maintain local property values and educational achievement.
The building project is estimated to cost $98 million to $100 million, or about an extra $285 each year for 20 years in school taxes for owners of a $300,000 home.


Speaker swallowed the bait. "Property Values" will drop like a rock if we don't spend $100 milion. Given that "Property Values" have increased about 27% in the last 6 years (Census Bureau, Midwestern average) one wonders.

But not for too long. After all, if "Property Values" drop, the City of Brookfield's mill-rate will have to rise, or the City's spending habits will have to be curbed. Duuuhhh.

Of course, it's possible that "Property Values" have to do with a low crime rate and lot-sizes larger than 120' x 60', and so forth.

Waukesha County Board Supervisor Keith Harenda, who represents the city and Town of Brookfield, also generally endorsed the plans and said the high schools' curb appeal was unsatisfactory compared with the new elementary schools.

If schools are not improved, the current buildings will cause property values to go down, Harenda said. "I'm seriously concerned about the high schools, and it has to be addressed."

Each of those new grade schools cost $10 million, and included a greenhouse.

"Curb appeal"? Puhleeezzze. Only 30% of the City of Brookfield's taxpayers have children in the Elmbrook schools. Another 30% send their children to private or parochial schools. Obviously, it's "curb appeal."

Elm Grove Village Trustee George Haas said he was surprised that the cost to remodel and expand the two existing high schools was not much cheaper than building two new high schools. Razing the two existing schools and building two new ones was estimated last fall to cost $118 million.

School District officials listed the cost of new construction at $155 a square foot - more than the $95 a square foot to do major remodeling (moving walls) and $75 a square foot for minor remodeling (changing only mechanical systems).

$100 million to remodel, $118 (++) million to go brand-new. Just a co-incidence, of course.

Look, folks. The Elmbrook schools claim that their students do very well on standardized tests. That's with these dowdy, leaky, un-appealing buildings which are endangering Property Values.

How did THAT happen?

1 comment:

James Quigley said...

Sounds like UW...always wanting to build bigger and better...but why? Just so they can say they did. Just so they can leave their mark. Stupid. Eisenhower charges $200 a year for parking in their school lot, and still doesn't repave the damned thing though it's got massive pot holes and other trouble, instead they take money from real issues like that, and put it towards others like paying for two high schools instead of one...