Schools’ surprises

Recording studio, balloon payments part of the plan

Faced with paying nearly CI$44 million on the construction of two new Grand Cayman public high schools over the next four months, the government is now reviewing spending plans for the schools’ construction.

John Gray High School

The new government is finding surprises as it looks into the contracts and plans to build two high schools, including the new John Gray High School, pictured here. Photo: Jewel Levy

Education Minister Rolston Anglin said he still supports the new Clifton Hunter and John Gray projects, and admits newly-elected ministers actually can’t do much to reduce costs over the next four months.

‘I inherited a ministry that has two current contracts for building high schools,’ Mr. Anglin said. ‘That’s what the (People’s Progressive Movement) signed this country up to. There are two balloon payments (due) in July. We have no choice.’

However, Mr. Anglin told the Legislative Assembly that, going forward, he and Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues would be reviewing each expense associated with the new buildings with an eye toward reducing costs.

‘Myself and my chief officer have spent more time in the last four weeks on the (new high schools) than anything else,’ Mr. Anglin said, adding that some of what he’d found surprised him.

‘For instance, the Clifton Hunter design calls for a recording studio for students who will want to record music,’ he said. ‘Are we going forward with that part of the project? Is that really required, especially with the current financial situation?’

Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said last month that cost overruns on the two high schools were estimated at CI$17 million. Those figures were later confirmed by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson.

However, that figure has been disputed by the previous government minister who oversaw the development of the contracts for the new schools.

Now-opposition MLA Alden McLaughlin said he wasn’t sure how cost overruns on the school projects could even be known at this stage of the project.

‘There were disputes and claims about additional costs that remain to be resolved,’ Mr. McLaughlin told the Caymanian Compass on 16 June. ‘Until that occurs, I don’t know how it can be said what the overruns are.’

The opening date for the schools was initially September 2009, but that was pushed back to September 2010 during the previous government administration. It’s not clear whether government’s current financial situation will affect the project schedule.

The four-month interim budget from 1 July to 31 October, known as a pre-appropriation or continuing appropriation, is already projecting upwards of a $57 million operating deficit this year. Some borrowing will be needed simply to pay government workers.

Mr. Jefferson estimated between $91 and $92 million will be left in available borrowed funds to help pay for construction projects like the public schools this year.

‘We need to look critically and make decisions about how we can save money,’ Mr. Anglin told the Legislative Assembly.

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