What if April’s referendum fails?

Tue, 04/23/2024 - 10:45am

    As the April 24 referendum nears, Boothbay region residents are focused on the future of the schools. Much attention has been paid to the negative and positive impacts of the $30 million elementary school project on students, taxpayers and the towns. However, what if the referendum fails?  

    According to Community School District (CSD) administrators and the board of trustees, millions of dollars worth of repairs need immediate attention regardless of whether they are part of a major renovation and expansion project. While the costs of these essential repairs may be overall less than the referendum project, taxpayers shouldn’t stow their checkbooks quite yet.  

    Residents can likely expect more bond referendums to come if April’s doesn’t pass. Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler said the boards will certify the vote and finalize priority repairs that pertain to life safety and health. He added, the district would likely bring an essential repair bond to the taxpayers for repairs to both Boothbay Region High School (BRHS) and Boothbay Region Elementary School (BRES). 

    “The (essential repair) lists as have been presented at the trustees’ meetings will be finalized, adjusted for renovations in place, and as much as can be done over the summer will be done once the operational budget and any bonds are approved,” Kahler said. 

    Future bonds could be smaller, and more numerous. The district’s new charter, enacted last year, requires a referendum for any bond over $250,000. But the board of trustees has discussed many single items on the elementary school’s essential repair list, such as a new BRHS dry sprinkler system and repairs to the leaking roof, that are estimated to meet or exceed the threshold.  

    According to the CSD documents from September, BRES and BRHS need over $32 million combined in priority repairs over the next five years to manage failing systems. The district showed estimates of around $6 million in repairs described as imminent failure, life safety or code issues at BRES; at BRHS, there are around $3 million. Trustees planned to complete these repairs within the first two years of a major renovation project. Items categorized as nearing their end of life were planned to be completed one to three years later. The district said those secondary repairs are estimated to cost roughly $6.5 million for BRES and over $16.5 million for BRHS. The costs were adjusted for 6% annual escalation since they were first estimated in 2021, and administrators said it will continue to increase the total regardless of the project. 

    Some of these repairs include upgrades to electrical systems and plumbing, replacement of mechanical systems, insulation, security upgrades, and sealing or replacing leaking roofs and windows. In recent meetings, trustees have expressed interest in starting repairs with the roof and dry sprinkler system at BRES.  

    However, to do repairs on an occupied school, Kahler said the district would also need to plan repair phasing and costs for five portable classrooms. He said portables are not needed for BRES if the April referendum project moves forward. He said the project’s phasing schedule and middle school addition, which would be used as a swing space, would help eliminate their need. 

    At the March 5 trustees’ meeting, Kahler said cost estimates for portable classrooms, including connecting them to water, power and sewer, would be over $1 million, plus annual utility expenses. He said the district would likely need to have custom units built to meet the school’s needs, which would be leased and then returned after three to five years

    Kahler and members of the board of trustees said they hope voters come to the polls well informed and in strong numbers. “I just want to encourage everyone to continue to seek answers to any questions you may have and please vote on or before April 24,” Kahler said.

    For more information, the CSD project website includes presentations, existing conditions reports, and repair estimates.