How do we fight budget inflation?

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By Marganne Glasser

County Council Chair Jim Hall spoke strongly in favor of denying a $9.7 million budget increase for demolition costs at Trinity Site in Tuesday’s budget hearing. The meeting focused on review of the updated Capital Improvements Process (CIP) plan and included budget discussion.

Historical escalation of project costs due to delays drove the development of a better defined CIP plan. “Especially in the larger projects, these dollars become significant,” said County Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne. “Do the math” he said. “On a $20 million project like the jail complex, cost increases of 2 percent a month is $200,000. That’s a million dollars in six months.”

He said most of the budget changes seen in the last five years have been due to unprecedented construction-cost inflation.

County Administrator Max Baker said the most significant change in the planning process is splitting it into two phases, a concept study phase and a real design phase.

“There will be milestones, so any deviation from plans will come before council,” Baker said.

“It is a major, major fix in the missing step of defining conceptual design,” said Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson. Yet, Gibson wants project budget variances to be zero.

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