Roofs and HVAC work part of long-range plans for H-F High

The District 233 school board will be looking at some major expenditures over the next five years to keep the Homewood-Flossmoor High School buildings in good shape.

Chief School Business Official Lawrence Cook walked the school board’s Finance Committee members through a list of projects and projected costs at the committee’s meeting Nov. 1. He estimated spending $1.2 million yearly on repairs to roofs and the heating and cooling system.

H-F roofs are replaced on a rotating basis. The board agreed to replace the roof over the South Building cafeteria in summer 2023. But some roofs are now more than 20 years old. The district has been making repairs, but they serve as band-aid solutions to a bigger need, said Jim Patterson, director of buildings and grounds.

District 233 has a 10-year plan worked on with the district’s architects from DLA Architects. It pinpoints problem areas and puts them on a work schedule. Cook told Finance Committee members that plan is meant to be a guideline. The school board must agree to the projects and allocate the money for the work.

The South Building is divided into wings. Petterson said two wings need to have the HVAC replaced. He reminded Finance Committee members that if those go down, that means two sections of the high school could be off limits to students.

Superintendent Scott Wakeley said H-F is taking the HVAC controlling systems from a system being discarded by a South Bend High School to use as spare parts because the company no longer has the HVAC system under warranty and replacement parts aren’t available.

Finance Committee members appreciated hearing the projections so that long range plans can be adjusted.

“I feel like we’ve got a couple surprises here and we didn’t anticipate them,” said Finance Committee Chair Steve Anderson. He asked Cook “to the best of your ability, if you can refine that plan …so the seven of us as a board can avoid as many big surprises as possible.”

The Finance Committee has talked about long-range expenses and how to pay for them. The committee will discuss how much money the district should hold in reserves. The projected amount in reserves for the 2023-24 budget year would be an estimated $53.8 million. The board has a policy of maintaining a strong reserve fund. The district’s projection is that $53.8 million equals 9.7 months in reserves that would cover expenses and payroll for an extended period of time so that H-F High would continue to operate during a fiscal crisis. 

A strong reserve fund also is a plus when the district goes into the bond market to borrow, as it just did borrowing $20 million for a new science wing and improvements for the culinary program.

But the board will be discussing whether to dip into that surplus to cover some of the major improvements.

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