Burlington High School $70M redesign budget falls short

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington High School's redesign plan is running into budget troubles.

When we last spoke with the project's manager in October, he said the main goal is sticking to the budget for the renovation. As the oversight committee digs deeper into project proposals, they say it's becoming more aware that the $70 million for the project may not be enough.

"In my mind, I think the best plan will be to try to find additional funding somewhere, I think the project will need it,” said Tom Peterson with Peterson Consulting.

Burlington High School's construction oversight committee says a larger budget may be needed if the school wants to follow through on its redesign project.

“My gut feeling is yes, to make a really amazing, viable project we probably need more money,” said Kate Stein, a committee member and parent.

The architecture firm Black River Design has created eight redesigns of the project that would build on to Burlington High, but so far none of them were able to stay below a $70 million budget.

"It's not particularly a new school we need, but we need a school that functions,” said Stein.

The oversight committee says it may need to renegotiate the budget, and Stein, who works at the High School, believes residents of Burlington would back a budget increase.

"I think there are more people who are poised to say, 'OK, if there's an ask to help with the budget, let us know,' be it going back to the voters or fundraising or grant-writing or what have you,” said Stein.

If the committee were to keep the budget requirements, they would need to scrap some renovations, and Peterson says neglecting those changes would be much worse than spending additional money on the project.

“When do you stop cutting and reconsider what the project should be, if we cut so much that it's not what people want then, it's not worth doing," said Peterson.

The committee will meet again in mid-January and Peterson expects a new budget proposal by then.