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Cost to replace city’s contaminated school exceeds funding

June 13, 2022 GMT

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Plans to replace the contaminated high school in Vermont’s largest city may have to be modified because the cost is $60 million higher than what the district can afford.

The Burlington School District has given the city a $150 million bond limit to pay for the construction of a new Burlington High School and Burlington Technical Center but the project is estimated to cost the district $210 million, the Burlington Free Press reported.

In March 2021, students were moved into a retrofitted former downtown Macy’s department store about six months after school administrators closed the existing school because toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs were found in the building and soil during renovations.

Last week, Superintendent Tom Flanagan and the school commissioners discussed options to address the $60 million gap, including finding more funding sources and altering the design.

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The board picked the design after hearing from the community. Construction is expected to cost $181.3 million and be completed in fall 2025, if voters approve it in November. Another $29 million is estimated to be needed to remediate and remove the existing building.

Flanagan said he thinks the school district will be able to cover remediation costs with federal and state funding but the challenge will be getting the money in time. The district had already set aside $10 million from federal coronavirus recovery money to go toward the construction and $5 million in district surplus money over five years, the newspaper reported. It’s also considering using $10 million from the 2017 capital plan, some of which was originally intended for Burlington High School.

The district administration has met with the congressional delegation and hired a consultant to find additional funding sources.