Two buildings at Payson High School will get about $700,000 worth of new roofing, thanks to the first signs of a turnaround in state support for the capital needs of schools.

Building C will get a $249,000 roof. The building G complex will get roof repairs and recoating for $441,000, under the terms of bids approved last week by the Payson School Board.

Valley-based Progressive Roofing won both bids, coming in far below its single competitor.

The state School Facilities Board will cover the cost of the repairs.

The state stopped funding most capital needs for the state’s K-12 school districts nearly a decade ago, with the onset of the recession. Now with state revenues growing along with pressure from schools and their supporters, the state has started to provide more money. However, the Arizona School Boards Association estimates schools have piled up nearly $2 billion in unmet needs as a result.

The Legislature in the current budget started putting money into the capital fund for schools for the first time in years, although the amount doesn’t begin to address the backlog.

Payson hired a consultant who documented $12 million in unmet capital needs, including things like leaking roofs. The consultant recommended the district put about $5 million a year into capital needs to catch up with the most urgent problems, but the district’s capital budget totals more like $500,000.

The School Facilities Board was created after courts ruled the state’s property-tax-based system was unconstitutional, since it gave property-tax-rich districts like Scottsdale far more money to spend on a per-student basis than property-tax-poor districts like Payson.

The Legislature set up a system to equalize funding for capital needs, but never fully funded it — giving up completely after the recession.

The money for roofing at Payson High School will prevent the assortment of leaks and flaws in the aging roofs from getting any worse. The district hired the consulting firm EMC2 to help make a case to the School Facilities Board that the roofing projects should top this year’s list, with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital projects from other districts waiting in line.

The district received two contractor bids for the C building, one at $194,000 from Progressive and one at $247,000 from another contractor. Design, administration and a contingency fund will bring the total cost of the project to $249,000.

The district also received two bids on the Building G repairs and resurfacing. Progressive’s bid came in at $365,000. The competing bid topped out at $832,000. Engineering, administration and contingencies brought the total cost to $441,000. The project includes buildings 1014, 10130, 1031, 1032 and 1033.

School board members were staggered by the bid difference for the larger project.

“Have you done research on Progressive roofing?” asked board member Joanne Conlin, feeling like the bid was too good to be true.

“The School Facilities Board has to approve any contractors,” said district finance director Kathie Manning. “We didn’t find any issues with them, so we’re required to go forward with the lowest responsive bidder.”

“And the School Facilities Board is paying for it?” added board president Barbara Underwood.

“We’re just happy they approved it,” said Manning.

“That’s just a huge difference,” noted Underwood.

“Was there any explanation?” asked Conlin.

“They both had the same scope of work,” said Manning.

Board member Shelia DeSchaaf said, “It makes me wary that something was overlooked or the high bidder didn’t anticipate there would be another bidder.”

Manning noted that the lower bid was in line with the original estimate prepared by the School Facilities Board.

“So they’re pretty much on track,” said Underwood.

With that, the board unanimously approved the bid.

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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