CSD addresses cost of school renovation, repair

Fri, 09/29/2023 - 5:00pm

    The Community School District held a public forum Sept. 27 to discuss the potential costs and tax impacts of the Boothbay region school renovations and proposed new high school. According to the presentation, Boothbay residents would face the highest impacts, peaking at a tax rate of $3.62 per $1,000 of property value; However, the cost to repair and maintain the existing buildings would also be steep. CSD school board and board of trustees, town officials and members of the public were there. 

    As reported in the Register, a Nov. 7 referendum will include two questions. The first will ask voters if they are in favor of $28.8 million in renovations to the elementary school and the construction of a middle school wing. The second will ask if voters favor authorizing a $60.2 million new high school. Both questions can fail, but the second can only pass if the first does as well.  

    Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler and Lance Whitehead, one of the project’s lead architects, led the session. They discussed the breakdown of costs, including construction, professional services such as architects and legal work, and contingencies. According to Whitehead, many of the estimates are based on state recommended numbers, calculated based on a percentage of the total cost of the project.  

    Whitehead also said the referendum caps the total costs because it sets the amount voters have enabled the school to bond. He said if work bids came in higher, they would have to redesign the project and rebid it until it comes in under budget.  

    “We have always (in the history of our 45-year firm) come in at or under budget after a bond vote,” he said in an email to the Register.  

    Kahler said the district chose a public bond sale to fund the project because they allow more flexibility and could be tiered into three different sales. He said the strategy would allow the towns to borrow money as they need it and apply donations once a year toward paying the bonds or the project. 

    According to Kahler, the calculations on bond impacts were made assuming no donations, so the potential cost at its highest point. The calculations include projected tax increases for land and property valued at $300,000, calculated with a 25-year bond at 4% interest. 

    According to the calculations, at the cost’s peak year, the entire $89 million project could increase the mil rate by $3.62 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation ($1,089) for Boothbay taxpayers and $2.95 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation ($885) for Boothbay Harbor. For the $28.8 million project, at the cost’s peak year, the mil rate increase could be $1.21 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation ($363) for Boothbay and $0.98 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation ($294) for Boothbay Harbor. The peak would correspond with when the final bond was purchased in the third year. 

    Whitehead also presented calculations on the cost to repair, maintain and continue using the current elementary-middle and high school buildings if the referendum fails. Kahler said two engineering firms have made reports on the current conditions of the buildings that show needed repairs, including mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing, roofing, interior renovations and security.  

    Whitehead said the total construction cost to repair both buildings would be around $37.7 million over 20 years, around $16 million for the elementary-middle building and $21.7 million for the high school. Whitehead said this would be around $6.5 million a year for the first five years of repairs.  

    “Essentially, if you're spending less than 1 million dollars a year, you're never going to catch it,” Whitehead said about the repairs for the elementary-middle building; the number jumps to $2 million for the high school. “What do you spend per year on a bond vs what do you spend a year if you ask the trustees to just tackle it?”

    Whitehead also said those costs would only include the needed repairs, not improvements such as classroom updates, educational benefits or insulation for the high school, which he said was not cost-effective. According to Kahler, the work would have negative impacts on students because they are living through construction, but no positive impacts that deal with the district’s educational vision.

    The meeting was the third of six public forums hosted by the school district. The next is Oct. 4 on the existing conditions of the buildings. In addition, there will be two formal town hall hearings, one in Boothbay Harbor Oct. 25, the other in Boothbay Oct. 26.  

    More information on the project and meetings is here: https://sites.google.com/aos98schools.org/aos98schoolboards/home/csd-building-exploratory-project?authuser=0

    It has links to files of documents, videos, etc. from each meeting related to the BEC.