Orleans Parish School Board staffers said Thursday that bids to rebuild six schools exceeded their budget by $13 million.

The shortfall was largely due to higher costs of labor and materials, said Herman Taitt, who heads the district’s capital projects office.

These projects are in the first phase of the $2 billion master plan to rebuild schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina. School board officials said they will need to change construction estimates for their share of the projects.

The six schools and the amount that bids exceeded estimates:

Alice Harte (new school)$21,507,000$26,570,000$5,063,000
McMain High School (renovation)$7,884,800$9,497,800$1,697,800
Audubon Elementary (renovation)$11,517,743$12,415,000$897,257
North Kenilworth School K-8 (new)$22,300,000$22,476,000$176,000
Edna Karr H.S. Gym (repairs)$273,000$293,000$20,000
McDonogh #35 (new school)$49,500,000$54,984,000$5,484,000

About $114 million was allocated for these projects and two others, but the bids came in at about $127 million. Bids for the other two projects came in under the estimates.

“We’re coming in 9 to 10 percent above the estimates we had in the master plan,” Superintendent Stan Smith said at a meeting of the board’s property committee. “So that’s going to create some challenges in terms of what funding is available.”

As construction costs rise and fall, the school board has frequently has revised the plan that it and the Recovery School District created in 2008. The Recovery School District has had to do the same for its share of the schools.

Board members disagreed on whether the shortfall was as much of a problem as staffers indicated. The district should be able to come up with the difference, board President Thomas Robichaux said.

“We’re not dead in the water, is what I’m saying,” he said. If the district manages the projects well, he said, they still should be able to fund all projects in the second phase of the plan.

Smith and Vice President Lourdes Moran shook their heads. “No, you’re wrong,” Moran said.

She asked staffers where the extra money would come from. Budget Director Wayne DeLarge answered that the district would have to reprioritize the projects in the master plan, but he didn’t say what the impact would be on the number of schools that would be built and when.

Correction: This story originally said that funding for the work at McDonogh 35 was for repairs, but it’s for a new school. The error has been corrected.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...