Resident likes Eardley’s focus on Mehlville’s needs versus wants

To the editor:

Kathleen Eardley is to be congratulated for her election to the Mehlville Board of Education, especially in light of her stated intention to attempt to focus the board’s fiscal attention on “needs” versus “wants.”

If the state of Missouri does indeed reduce public school funding for primary and secondary education and the state’s court system presents the Mehlville School District with the prospect of significant transfers from city of St. Louis schools, then the proposed expenditure of $6 million on a new, “nice-to-have” auditorium will present a real challenge to the board.

Consider that the bottom-line budget for this auditorium has been set at $6 million. Consider that, according to the April 5 Call, between Feb. 9 and March 14 — a bit more than one month — building and site costs for the auditorium have already increased from $4,227,900 to $5,067,242, an increase of roughly $840,000 and the size of the proposed building has increased from 22,700 square feet to “roughly 23,416 square feet.”

Consider that the $840,000 increase in building and site costs will have to be added to the original project estimate of $5,817,180 to produce a corrected current estimate of $6,650,000, or 10 percent more than the stated bottom-line cost of $6,000,000, a 10-percent overage already.

Finally, consider that this new projected final cost does not include the price tag for mandatory re-routing of utility lines and unstable soil compaction.

Superintendent Eric Knost assures all that the cost will not exceed $6 million and says that he has been assured that “there is ‘a lot of play’ in how the end product is designed,” but representatives of Dickinson Hussman Architects don’t seem to be in accordance with Superintendent Knost’s position on that matter.

So, Mehlville voters, whose money is being spent, will apparently be confronted with a choice between spending their $6 million for bricks and mortar — a “want” — or for funding continued educational quality should withdrawal of state funding and/or a sudden influx of transfer students occur — a “need.” Or, most likely, we can expect, soon, another Proposition, call it “X”, for a tax increase.

Good luck, Ms. Eardley, in your efforts to move the Mehlville school board toward choosing to fund “needs” before “wants.”

Alas, the history of the board has been: “We can have it all whenever we want,” with unfortunate results in recent tax increase votes.

D.J. Rutkowski

Oakville

Editor’s note: While projected site costs for the auditorium have increased, other costs decreased. The total project cost, as of March 14, is estimated at $5,950,742.