A study of selected variables of school construction costs

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This study investigated the relationship of selected building descriptors, district characteristics, and finance, to the per pupil cost of new school construction. Variables selected were: Financial--assessed value, local effort in facility construction, state and federal funds, and the educational expenditures of the district; Building descriptors--the length of construction time, the percentage of instructional space, and the type of facility; district characteristics--geographic location, urban/rural, and net enrollment.

The data were gathered from the West Virginia State Department of Education, the State Tax Department, and various architects who designed the 128 new schools constructed under the West Virginia Better School Buildings Amendment of 1972. Analyses utilized the multiple regression procedure to examine the relationship of the variables to construction costs.

The results indicated a significant relationship between per pupil construction cost and three financial variables: (1) the assessed value of the district, (2) the amount of local effort put into facility construction and improvement, and (3) the amount of state funds utilized in the project. None of the district characteristics contributed significantly to the variance and the only descriptive variable to yield a significant contribution was the type of facility being constructed--elementary, secondary, or vocational-technical.

The study implied need for the standardization of assessed values in West Virginia, equalization of local fiscal effort in school construction, and legislation to inject additional state money in capital outlay. It was recommended that a funding formula for facility construction and improvement be instituted utilizing money from two sources: a local effort fund, accrued and administered at the state level, to which each county would contribute on an equalized basis; and state appropriations designated on a yearly basis. These funds would eliminate the need for local bond issues and special levies for this purpose.

It was recommended that further study be done to clarify the relationship between per pupil cost and federal funds, as well as instructional space.