Building the new Clifton Hunter and John Gray high school campuses will cost almost $100 million each, Education Minister Rolston Anglin told a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.
The disclosure of the amount came as government ministries sought additional funding totalling more than $49 million for supplementary budget items.
Among the additional amounts being sought were $7 million for the National Roads Authority, $5 million for overseas medical treatment for indigents and uninsured people, and $14.5 million for construction costs associated with the two high schools and new classrooms at primary schools in Grand Cayman.
Mr. Anglin gave a breakdown of how much construction and additional works at the two secondary schools had cost so far – $54.4 million on John Gray and $85.9 million on Clifton Hunter.
He told his legislator colleagues that an additional $13.6 million was needed to complete Clifton Hunter in time for the beginning of the next academic school year in September, bringing that construction project to a total of $99.5 million. Another $43 million would be required to complete John Gray, bringing the construction costs of that project to a total of $97.4 million.
The secondary schools projects have been mired in delays and controversy, with the government terminating the contract of the original contractor Tom Jones International in December 2009. Mr. Anglin said an ongoing dispute between Tom Jones International and the Cayman Islands government relating to payments for the project would go before an arbitration hearing in July.
The Auditor General’s Office is reviewing the bidding process under which Tom Jones bid a total of $120 million to build the two schools.
In the supplementary budget, Mr. Anglin’s ministry also sought an additional $2.2 million to go toward $11.4 million worth of work at primary schools.
The Finance Committee was told the proposed lease or sale of the Water Authority’s assets would help pay for the additional funding for the construction of the schools.
Mr. Anglin said: “We expect funding from the divestment [of the Water Authority assets] to come in early in the next fiscal year.”
He said that half of that divestment of assets would go toward continuing the high school projects “just based on the amounts that have been forthcoming, unsolicited, to Cabinet, we know that that is a substantial sum of money … that will allow us to complete Clifton Hunter and also complete what will be phase two of John Gray, which is a continuing commitment that we made in the 2010/11 budget year.”
The education minister said “no hiccups” had been experienced during this financial year concerning the construction of the schools.
Supplementary budgets are used when adjustments are needed to make ends meet. Premier McKeeva Bush said much of the money being sought in this supplementary budget had been in the Cayman Islands government’s original budget, which had been vetoed by the UK government “at least three times”.
“A number of these items which have increased were original amounts and we still, at this point, have cut back on what staff has said the country needs,” Mr. Bush said.
The Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin responded to the premier’s comments by saying: “Are you saying then that the budget you presented in May was unrealistic?”
The supplementary budget included amounts that will go toward helping people who are out of work or need financial assistance, including $1.2 million for rental accommodation for people in need, $1.8 million for poor relief vouchers, $300,000 for poor relief payments and $400,000 Children and Family Services Support.
An additional $1.6 million was requested to enhance crime fighting capabilities and another $1.2 million to build the Mosquito Research and Control Unit’s hangar.
The Finance Committee meeting continued Tuesday afternoon, after press time.