The closure of Langley Middle School is estimated to save more money than originally anticipated, according to South Whidbey School District leaders.
The South Whidbey Community Center, located at the dormant campus, is also raking in a steady cash flow and is proving to be self-supporting.
It was previously projected that closing the middle school would save $321,996 in operating costs. A later estimate dipped down to $312,079.
Current estimates, however, project $370,000 in savings, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Dan Poolman. Poolman provided a financial update on Langley Middle School and the South Whidbey Community Center at a South Whidbey School Board workshop meeting on Jan. 10.
“The reality is we’re doing better than we had projected,” Poolman said.
Savings in employee wages, fuel spending and utility costs totaled $297,876, while the district is also projecting an income of over $70,000 annually from the center.
The district receives $16,701 in total monthly revenue from the tenants, which have rented rooms at the middle school since August. There are currently 15 tenants — from businesses to non-profit organizations — paying rent, utilities, common area maintenance and excise taxes.
The annual net profit for rent is estimated at $36,694, which can be put back into the facilities for the betterment of the center and the campus, Poolman said. The figure is expected to increase by about $25,000 in February when a tenant — artist Jason Hallman — expands his rented space by two rooms.
The district also estimated it will receive $37,740 in utility charges for tenants.
Poolman said he was surprised the district could project a profit in its first year operating the center.
“Any money from this type of rental should go into capital for capital improvements,” Poolman said. “These are things we can put back and expand what we’re doing on that facility.”
Monthly expenditures for the campus total $13,643 per month for maintenance, utilities, security systems, advertising, custodial services and employee benefits.
“It’s totally amazing that within four months we have a self-supporting community center in this district,” Poolman said. “A lot of people did some very good work with this, so I’m very impressed.”
Increases in cost for custodial services, for example, could increase if more tenants move in; only about 15 percent of the campus is unoccupied.
“We have a custodian assigned there two hours a day currently,” Poolman said. “We’ll see how that works. We think it’s sufficient at the moment. But, I’m assuming if we get more tenants, it may change a little bit.”
Superintendent Jo Moccia added that the common area maintenance costs for tenants also provides a salary for Gail LaVassar, the community liaison for the center, as well as custodial staff. It was previously unknown how the district would pay LaVassar for her work in filling up open spaces at the center and essentially acting as a landlord.
“This is really amazing and good,” Moccia said.
The school district is responsible for 55 percent of the electrical costs for gyms, existing leases with Island Dance and the Whidbey Children’s Theatre and “basic” heating in the middle school in order to maintain the “integrity of it,” Poolman said.
The tenants pay 45 percent of the electrical cost, which is based on the 2016-17 cost of about $108,000.
“That was going to be their share of the electrical for the tenants that are in the facility,” Poolman said. “And the district would pick up the 55 percent, which was the basic amount that we felt we needed for lease of our gyms and etcetera.”
The district, however, is paying 18 percent less than it did the previous school year because there aren’t several hundred kids using the facilities and it’s not heated as much, Poolman said. Water, sewer and garbage costs have also been reduced by 50 percent, based on “year-to-date,” figures, he added.
The buildings are also being upgraded.
One of the middle school’s gyms will receive a nearly $1 million seismic retrofit sometime this year, though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will cover 75 percent of the cost.
New access control and video security systems will also be installed. Poolman said the cost will be spread out over three years and added to expenditures for the center and not through the capital projects fund.