Payson Hopes To Get State Fund For Gym

District optimistic School Facilities Board will provide hundreds of thousands to replace aging room off high school gym

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Payson hopes to score a coup by getting money from the state to replace the roof on one of the high school’s gyms.

The Payson School Board recently approved a list of requirements for an architect to come up with a design to replace the roof, which this year developed alarming cracks that have so far proved largely cosmetic.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien said the district got unexpected encouragement when officials here sought help from the statewide School Facilities Board to fund the repair, which will likely cost several hundred thousand dollars.

“It looks like we have a very good chance to completely replace the roof. It seems that one of the things that really gets their attention is roofs,” said O’Brien.

The board approved the qualifications for architects to bid on the project. O’Brien said the architect would likely design a new roof this year, with construction next year.

“Make sure we get a roof with some pitch on it — we gotta have pitch,” said Board Member Rory Huff.

“We don’t want that accordion thing we have on there now. You get an architect from the Valley and they always want to throw a flat roof on it.”

Board Chairman Barbara Underwood said, “I’d like to see it go out to a local firm, to keep our money in town.”

The request for a proposal invites architects that meet the requirements to submit an application.

The district could then negotiate a price from the list of applicants.

The architect’s plans would then enable the district to seek competitive construction bids, although the board doesn’t necessarily have to chose the lowest bidder if it deems some conditions other than price more important.

“Will we have it ready for school next year (fall)?” asked Board Member Matt Van Camp.

“This is a complex project,” said O’Brien, but we’ll do our best. There’s a real possibility of the gym not being available next summer.”

The encouragement from the School Facilities Board took district officials by surprise, due to a near freeze in school construction for the past two years.

The state took over responsibility for most school construction in 1999, after losing a lawsuit that targeted the big differences in per-student spending that existed between school districts, based on assessed values.

The heavy reliance of schools on local property taxes generally gave schools in wealthy towns like Scottsdale far more to spend on each student than working class towns.

The Arizona Supreme Court declared the state’s school funding system unconstitutional, forcing the legislature to put together a new system that would reduce the huge differences in per-student spending from one district to another.

However, the state has all but halted funding for school facilities in the past two years in the shadow of the budget crisis. The last major projects posted on the School Facilities Board Web site included two new schools costing $22 million in the Vail Unified School District.

For fiscal 2011, state funding for the already shrunken budget of the School Facilities Board dropped by $37 million —about 36 percent. The budget would continue the two-year moratorium on new construction. However, the fund could still finance a limited number of repairs on existing buildings.

Several schools districts have filed lawsuits against the state, claiming that the legislature has not given the School Facilities Board enough money to keep up with the needs of the state’s school districts.

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