At an informational session, the chairman of the elementary school building committee, explained the next steps for the town. The School Building Authority has prioritized the town and is offering an unprecedented reimbursement rate (starting at 77.53 percent and increasing to over 80 percent if certain benchmarks are met) for money spent toward fixing the current, unsustainable school building situation. An article on the special town meeting, would allow borrowing of $490,000 for a feasibility study. The money is reimbursable at the 77.53-percent rate, and any of it which is unspent can be rolled into future steps of the project.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting, residents wanted to know specifics like how much a whole new school building would cost and where students would be housed if there were to be construction on the existing buildings, but these are questions that would be answered by the feasibility study.
The chairman could also not predict exactly which path voters will choose, be it a whole new school, repairs or additions to existing schools, or nothing; the feasibility study will provide information to voters about each of those options, their costs and their pros and cons. It will outline exactly which repairs are needed to bring aging buildings up to code, possible locations and cost estimates for new construction, as well as logistics for following through on each possibility, so that voters can make an informed decision when the time comes.
One attendee asked if this funding was a one-time-only deal, and the chair explained that if the town passes up on the state’s current offer they will lose their place at the top of the waiting list and have to work their way back up, which could take years.
The chair encouraged everyone to attend the STM whether they think the feasibility study should be done or not. He acknowledged that the average cost of an appropriately sized new elementary school is $25,000,000, and that it would cost taxpayers anywhere from $97 to $195 per year in the first few years of the loan, depending on the value of their house – those amounts would go down as the loan gets paid off. He hates seeing taxes go up as much as anyone, but he, personally, would rather see his tax money go to an investment in the town’s future and attractiveness instead of the last-minute repairs each aging school building needs every year. He cited over $600,000 in emergency roof, boiler and other infrastructure repairs in the past two years alone.