After expressing surprise and disappointment, the Fulton County Board of Education voted unanimously to increase the budget for a phase of the new Riverwood Charter International School in Sandy Springs by more than $5 million.

District 5 Board Member Linda McCain said she understands that construction costs are rising nationwide, but is concerned that the Riverwood project has risen to encompass about 10 percent of the district’s capital budget for the next five years.

An illustration shows the planned design for the new Riverwood International Charter School. (Fulton County Schools)

“This is unbelievable,” McCain said. “Did we design this building to be one of the most expensive buildings we’ve done in Fulton County? That’s my only takeaway from this,” she said.

The Fulton County School District staff attributed the increases to rising construction costs, particularly for such materials as cement and steel.
The school, located off of Heards Ferry Road at 5900 Raider Drive, is being built in seven phases to allow the school to remain open during construction. That process is causing the construction time to be much longer than typical, another factor driving up costs, said Patrick Burke, the district chief operating officer, said during a presentation at the board’s Sept. 13 work session, which is archived in video online.

Delaying approval of the “Phase 2B” contract increase, which totals $5,766,746, could affect costs and schedules, he cautioned. The total budget for Phase 2B, which includes roofing, doors, windows, interior finishes and landscaping, now comes to $29,580,046.

To prevent similar increases for the following phases, Burke said phases 3 through 7 will be bid in a way that locks in the prices.

District 2 Board Member Katie Reeves expressed disappointment and shock that district staff or the construction manager did not see the cost increase coming.

“Somebody should have caught this,” Reeves said. “I’m having a tough time trying to absorb that every single gut check along the way failed us.”

District 4 Board Member Linda Bryant said that this is not the only project funded by the special purpose local option tax that has gone over budget.

She renewed her call for an audit of SPLOST projects that gets into more details than the annual audit already done.