Breaking down the cost of a $56 million school

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 7:00am

Portland firm Lavallee Brensinger presented Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District with two concepts Nov. 5 for a K-12 building valued in the $56 million range which will be part of a broader master plan.

The CSD started the master plan process after pursuing $5 million in emergency repairs to Boothbay Region Elementary and High schools last year. Lavallee Brensinger was hired in October 2019 and began public sessions in January. Then came the pandemic.

January meetings consisted of breakout sessions with administrators, school boards, teachers and staff, students, the public and inspections of the buildings and grounds. Lavallee Brensinger design principal Ron Lamarre and K-12 studio leader Lance Whitehead determined BRES’s viability for renovations and found BRHS has too many needs for a full renovation. Concept 1 illustrated a total demolition and Concept 2, renovation of the gymnasium and BRHS’s portion of the basement.

At the Boothbay Register’s request, Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Keith Laser asked First National Bank of Damariscotta, current bond holder for BRES and BRHS projects, what a yearly payment on a $56 million bond would be. Laser quoted the finance officer, “Assuming the construction project is complete and the balance on the line of commitment were financed over a 20-year term/20-year amortization, the annual payment at 3.03% would be $3,686,084, or a monthly payment would be $312,634.”

Variables such as enrollment, state subsidies, and pressures on municipal budgets make it hard to break down costs; however, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 average for school budget increase, 3.7%, and last year’s school budget and data, we can project  the increase to each town.

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Anticipating about a 3.7% increase from the 2020-2021 CSD budget, which totaled $10,480,417, taxpayers can reasonably expect a budget around $10.85 million. Adding the annual payment for the $56 million bond would raise the projected budget by just over a third, to $14.6 million. Per the CSD charter, capital improvements are apportioned to Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor at a maximum of 60% and minimum of 40% based on enrollment. All other expenditures are split based on enrollment numbers; the 2020-2021 budget had a 64.62%/35.38% split between Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor.

While enrollment has changed, a $10.85 million budget based on that split would see Boothbay picking up just over $7 million and Boothbay Harbor, $3.84 million for the next fiscal year. A 60/40 split of the annual payment on the $56 million budget would be $2.2 million for Boothbay and just under $1.5 million per year for Boothbay Harbor. That totals $9.2 million for Boothbay and $5.34 million for Boothbay Harbor in the next fiscal year.

Lamarre and Whitehead said other variables may affect a final design and price. Administrators and teachers will fine-tune how space can be shared and saved, and what materials to use, Whitehead said. Lamarre said if the CSD plans on bonding out the project, there is no better time than now as interest rates are at a historic low.

Plans call for Lavallee Brensinger to draft a square-foot cost analysis of the concepts versus the cost of doing nothing and dealing with problems as they arise. The firm will also change parts each concept such as eliminating a second cafeteria, improving kitchen and utility access, and further designing outdoor learning models.

This article has been updated since its original posting.