$30M Boothbay region school referendum set for April

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 10:30am

    In what may seem like deja vu, the Community School District Trustees unanimously approved a referendum around a revised renovation project for the Boothbay region middle-elementary school. The board signed warrants Feb. 6 for the April vote to ask residents if they approve bonding up to $29,975,000 for the project.  

    Public hearings on the referendum are scheduled for April 3 in Boothbay Harbor and April 4 in Boothbay, and both will be at 6 p.m. at each respective town hall. The trustees also unanimously voted to recommend a “yes” vote. Trustees Steve Lorrain, Matt Doucette, Darrell Gudroe and Paul Roberts were present. The referendum vote will be Wednesday, April 24.

    The referendum may seem remarkably similar to the $28.8 million question that failed in November, but there are several changes as reported in the Register. The revised project still includes a middle school addition, an administrative addition and significant renovations, but the board cut around $3.7 million of work. According to the district, the new project is more expensive because of around $2 million in escalation costs and an additional $1 million in needed repairs that were initially planned separately from the original project.  

    According to the district, the project will cost $31,975,000, but $2 million has already been raised from private donations, which reduces the total amount bonded. In addition, Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler said the district continues to engage in fundraising. “We’ll always apply donations first because that will reduce the amount borrowed,” he said.  

    In other business, the trustees discussed their portion of the draft FY25 CSD budget. Overall, CSD expenditures are expected to increase by over 10% from the previous year according to the district. The estimated trustee’s portion includes a 10% ($45,000) increase in transportation and buses and almost 15% ($231,000) increase in facilities maintenance. According to the Facilities Director David Benner, a significant portion of expenditure increases come from external factors such as a rise in water and sewer rates and the loss of COVID relief funds, which had reduced the budget in previous years.  

    The draft budget also includes a 35% ($57,000) increase in debt services, which assumes the referendum vote would pass and the district would take out $30,000 to replace a bus with high milage and wear. The trustees did not make any motions on the budget at the meeting and are expected to continue the discussion. 

    In addition, STEM teacher Chip Schwehm led the trustees on a tour of the Boothbay Region High School shop classroom during the meeting. He pointed out several needs to make it a safe space and improve the educational environment. According to Schwehm, there are current noise and air quality issues that come from dust collection systems, fans and other equipment. He also highlighted environmental issues including water intrusion and heat loss from aging weather stripping. Overall, the board seemed receptive to his presentation.  

    Trustee chair Lorrain said he has worked in many boat shops and complimented a small boat that the students are building. “In any boat shop I've worked in, that isn't feasible,” he said. “You’re doing remarkable things with one hand tied behind your back.” 

    In public comment, Erik Bertelsen said reinvigorating the shop should be a priority at a time when students are being encouraged to get into the trades. “The statement that it makes right now is that people going into the trades are second class and that's an unfortunate statement,” he said.    

    This article has been updated since its original posting.