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South Cooper Mountain high school construction costs still going up

New high school price tag of $166 million 50 percent more than original estimated cost

South Cooper Mountain high schoolEven as the Beaverton School District figures out which students will go to its new high school in the South Cooper Mountain area, it has also had to frequently recalculate how big a check to write to pay for it.

After yet another increase, district officials now say the campus under construction off Southwest Scholls Ferry Road at 175th Avenue could cost $166 million.

Originally pegged at $109 million just four years ago, the estimated price tag for the school has risen more than 50 percent.

That estimate has stepped up in stages, including a $17.5 million increase presented to the Beaverton Bond Accountability Committee on Monday.

Despite the increases, district officials said they remain “in good shape” and confident they will deliver all of the new schools and a long list of improvements districtwide that voters OK’d by passing a state-record $680 million construction bond in 2014.

The latest $17.5 million increase added this week is due to higher costs associated with city of Beaverton requirements ($5.5 million), market conditions and delays, including permits ($6.8 million) and the district’s own additions ($5.2 million).

It’s not yet clear whether the ultimate price of the high school will rise further because the district won’t negotiate a guaranteed maximum price with its contractor until January, according to spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler.

The district also is adding $3.7 million to its construction budget contingency fund, but off-setting that increase with the same amount of savings due to “value engineering.”

One big reason officials still expect to finish all planned projects despite the cost hikes is that the district has reaped another $70 million in additional money beyond the taxpayers’ $680 million, that addition due to a bond sale premium, interest earnings and a construction excise tax, Wheeler reported this week.

The new cost forecast for all bond projects has risen to $695 million, leaving the district with another $55 million worth of wiggle room.

“So we are in good shape,” Wheeler said in an email.