What’s behind a $53 million price tag for renovations to Smalley Academy, a K-5 elementary school near downtown and North-Oak Streets? That question should be on the minds of the Common Council after initial estimates by school officials were closer to $30 million last year. The earlier estimate by school officials was tens of millions of dollars less than the amount now moving through approvals before the project goes to the state for bonding and to the city’s school building committee for bids and construction.
Smalley with an enrollment of 654 students is the next educational building in line for improvements in New Britain. The need for enhancement of the school is not at issue among educators, city officials and State Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D-25) whose district includes the Smalley Academy where more than 70 percent of students are Hispanic. Sanchez and members of the city’s legislative delegation are advocates for state bond support for Smalley. The city receives 80 percent funding from the state when projects pass muster and are approved at the state level. Sanchez, however, says his inquiries to city officials about the project so far have gone unanswered.
At issue is the feasibility plan coming out of the Council’s bonding subcommittee that puts the costs much higher than prior estimates. In the last major New Britain school renovation at Gaffney School – which has a comparable enrollment and size to Smalley Academy – the total cost was $30 million. A former high-level New Britain school administrator says the $53 million price would be more appropriate for new construction at a larger school, not improvements and upgrades to Smalley.
On Wednesday, June 22nd at 6:30 p.m.the City Council’s Committee on Administration, Finance and Law will vote on whether to accept the $53 million appropriation and bond authorization for the school renovation and expansion project. Public comment will be invited prior to the vote at City Hall.