Poor design and shoddy workmanship of the 1978 addition to Northampton High School complex have led to drainage problems that continue to plague the structure. Northampton School facilities manager Chris Truckner and structural engineer Danny Speight briefed the Board of Supervisors on the condition of the school, providing details on needed repairs that totaled $23 million. Repairs to the roof alone are hovering near $2 million. Truckner documented issues with walls, flooring as well as weakness in the foundation support soil.
Given the amount of repairs and cost associated, the consensus of the BoS was that the complex needed to be replaced. Supervisor LeMond and Bennett offered that the need to build a new school should become a high priority, pledging to work together with the School Board to get this project underway as quickly as possible.
Early estimates for the new complex are around $35 million, however, that figure should be expected to increase as design details are flushed out. Where the money will come from, and how soon the County will be able to move forward, is still up in the air. Northampton County’s debt is $23,555,000, with debt service payments of $2.7 million per year. While debt for our two elementary schools will be retired in 2024, stop gap work to keep the high school operational will be required in the near term. Supervisor Duer has requested that the Board come up with figures on how much the annual payment would be to repay the debt needed for the construction of a new school.
In terms of debt service, it should be understood that the County uses tax revenue to service both the County and school debt; County and school debt is $25,511,914, establishing a combined debt service budget of $3,313,732. Given this landscape, making $21 million in repairs to the school appears to be untenable. Adding to the current debt service of $3 million (another $1.5 million) could take a 15 cent or more bite out of every tax revenue dollar.
While the finances appear daunting, this is still an exciting time for Northampton Schools. Along with Kiptopeke Elementary receiving its accreditation, many new and innovative programs are planned for the classroom and support services, such as computer code writing, robotics, welding, expanded science, art and music, journalism, first responder CTE, home health aide, computer repair, botany/horticulture, workforce readiness. Also, new programs such as the guest lecture program, job shadowing, internships, and Habitat for Humanity volunteer opportunities are on the horizon.