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MSAD #60 Building Projects Public Referendum Vote: Why Vote Yes?

MSAD #60 Building Projects

Public Referendum Vote



Lebanon Elementary School:


Q: Why should taxpayers vote “yes” on the building project?

A: Lebanon Elementary School was built in 1953. All systems need upgrading, the building is not ADA compliant, and there are foundation/structural issues with the building. A life expectancy of a school is 40 to 50 years. Lebanon Elementary School is 68 years old. It has surpassed expectations. While a lot of care and upkeep has gone into the building, it will take a great deal of taxpayer dollars to bring the building up to code, make all bathrooms, entrances/exits ADA compliant, and structurally sound. Right now there are fairness issues with the physical building and space for students attending Lebanon Elementary School.


Q: What is the language of the actual referendum question?

A: Here is the question that will appear on the ballot: “Do you favor authorizing the School Board of Maine School Administrative District No. 60 (the “District”) to issue bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $57,489,290 for the construction and renovation project described below at District elementary schools in Berwick, Lebanon, and North Berwick? (Over 20 years).”


Q: How much is the Estimated Total Bond Interest?

A: $13,184,616 is the Estimated Total Bond Interest. That figure is in addition to the Principal amount listed above.


Q: What exactly is the plan for the additions at Hanson Elementary School, North Berwick Elementary School, and Hussey School?

A: In addition to the concerns about the actual physical Lebanon Elementary School building, the additions for all three projects involve adding more classrooms to address the new homes/apartments being built in each town as well as ADA compliance issues at all three sites. Also built into the plans is classroom space for public pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) which MSAD #60 anticipates being responsible for offering and subsidizing in the next few years (for specific site plans please visit www.rsu60.org).


Q: Why did the school district put forward three projects and not just one project?

A: As mentioned above, each town is seeing growth with new homes and apartments popping up. For example, North Berwick Elementary School is currently 59% above capacity and this is a huge challenge as teachers, staff, and students work with one another daily. Population increases in the towns translate to enrollment increases in the schools. All three schools are impacted by town growth.


Q: I have heard that if one project gets approved the school district can then get on a list so the state will pay for the other two projects. Could you explain?

A: It is true that there is a Major Capital School Construction program where districts can apply for funding, but it is not as clear cut as “adding a school to the list”. The last time applications opened for funding school projects was 2016. At that time 74 schools applied for the 126 million dollars allocated to the program. The application process takes one year to complete and up to one more year for the state to visit all the sites and make determinations. Of those 74 applications only the top few were moved ahead for funding. The state is not clear on when the next round of applications will open but Scott Brown, of the Maine Department of Education stated that it is further out than one year, potentially 2023. Once the list is opened, we would apply for funding. If selected, it would be years before the actual projects begin and up to two years beyond that for completion. There are a large number of districts in the state in need of support for building projects. No funding is guaranteed to MSAD 60.


The Building Committee did review all options before determining that putting forth the three additions was appropriate. The committee absolutely understands the financial impact on the three communities, but also looked at what would occur if we are unable to secure the expansions. Each of our elementary schools in the three towns will require modular buildings to provide space to the growing student population. Just this year alone, we will need to budget for four additional classrooms in North Berwick. Berwick will continue to require the one additional modular that is in place. Lebanon will budget for one modular to meet student needs. The population of our schools is growing in all three towns annually. Modular buildings are costly, temporary, and lack water and bathroom facilities. The Building Committee felt that it would be more fiscally responsible to spend funds on the permanent additions rather than temporary structures.


Q: What is the tax impact to residents in Lebanon?

A: All three towns have different price breakdowns. As a taxpayer in Lebanon there would be a principal payment and an interest payment which is like a mortgage on a house. The school district would need to take a loan from the Maine Bond Bank. The first year the loan is repaid, taxpayers would make an “interest-only” payment. Please note that the calculations below are based on a $100,000 assessed property. So for a $100,000 assessed property the payment would be $53.69 for that first year. If you calculate that to a monthly figure it ends up being $4.74 per month. For the second year, the payment would be higher as it would include the Principal and Interest. That total would be $208.43. If you calculate that out it comes to $17.36 per month. Following the second year, payments decrease over the life of the 20 year loan.


Conclusion: The building additions will be a long-term solution to growing populations across the three towns and aging schools. The price of these projects will become more expensive the longer we delay.



Hussey Elementary School:


Q: Why should taxpayers vote “yes” on the building project?

A: Hussey School was built in 1990. The current building needs to be brought up to code for ADA compliance. That includes bathrooms, stairwells, railings and the elevator. In addition to being brought “up to code” Hussey School needs more classroom space to not only address increasing student enrollment but also the eventuality of public Pre-Kindergarten which will be coming in the next few years. Hussey School has struggled with space for the past few years. As a result, a temporary modular building has been put on the grounds to assist with space constraints while staff provide strong programming for the student body.


Q: What is the language of the actual referendum question?

A: Here is the question that will appear on the ballot: “Do you favor authorizing the School Board of Maine School Administrative District No. 60 (the “District”) to issue bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $57,489,290 for the construction and renovation project described below at District elementary schools in Berwick, Lebanon, and North Berwick? (Over 20 years).”


Q: How much is the Estimated Total Bond Interest?

A: $13,184,616 is the Estimated Total Bond Interest. That figure is in addition to the Principal amount listed above.


Q: What exactly is the plan for the additions at Hussey School, North Berwick Elementary School, and Hanson Elementary School?

A: Not only do the the additions for all three projects involve adding more classrooms to address homes/apartments being built in each town, ADA compliance issues at all three sites, and classroom space for public pre-kindergarten, the plans also address the significant structural concerns about the actual physical Lebanon Elementary School building (for specific site plans please visit www.rsu60.org).


Q: Why did the school district put forward three projects and not just one project?

A: As mentioned above, each town is seeing growth with new homes and apartments popping up. For example, North Berwick Elementary School is currently 59% above capacity and this is a huge challenge as teachers, staff, and students work with one another daily. Population increases in the towns translate to enrollment increases in the schools. All three schools are impacted by town growth.


Q: I have heard that if one project gets approved the school district can then get on a list so the state will pay for the other two projects. Could you explain?

A: It is true that there is a Major Capital School Construction program where districts can apply for funding, but it is not as clear cut as “adding a school to the list”. The last time applications opened for funding school projects was 2016. At that time 74 schools applied for the 126 million dollars allocated to the program. The application process takes one year to complete and up to one more year for the state to visit all the sites and make determinations. Of those 74 applications only the top few were moved ahead for funding. The state is not clear on when the next round of applications will open but Scott Brown, of the Maine Department of Education stated that it is further out than one year, potentially 2023. Once the list is opened, we would apply for funding. If selected, it would be years before the actual projects begin and up to two years beyond that for completion. There are a large number of districts in the state in need of support for building projects. No funding is guaranteed to MSAD #60.


The Building Committee did review all options before determining that putting forth the three additions was appropriate. The committee absolutely understands the financial impact on the three communities, but also looked at what would occur if we are unable to secure the expansions. Each of our elementary schools in the three towns will require modular buildings to provide space to the growing student population. Just this year alone, we will need to budget for four additional classrooms in North Berwick. Berwick will continue to require the one additional modular that is in place. Lebanon will budget for one modular to meet student needs. The population of our schools is growing in all three towns annually. Modular buildings are costly, temporary, and lack water and bathroom facilities. The Building Committee felt that it would be more fiscally responsible to spend funds on the permanent additions rather than temporary structures.


Q: What is the tax impact to residents in Berwick?

A: All three towns have different price breakdowns. As a taxpayer in Berwick there would be a principal payment and an interest payment which is like a mortgage on a house. The school district would need to take a loan from the Maine Bond Bank. The first year the loan is repaid, taxpayers would make an “interest-only” payment. Please note that the calculations below are based on a $100,000 assessed property. So for a $100,000 assessed property the payment would be $59.11 for that first year. If you calculate that to a monthly figure it ends up being $4.93 per month. For the second year, the payment would be higher as it would include the Principal and Interest. That total would be $229.11. If you calculate that out it comes to $19.09 per month. Following the second year, payments decrease over the life of the 20 year loan.


Conclusion: The building additions will be a long-term solution to growing populations across the three towns and aging schools. The price of these projects will become more expensive the longer we delay.



North Berwick Elementary School:


Hi Bear Families,


I’m writing this letter to break down the upcoming referendum benefits as well as the project’s impact on taxpayers. I hope that you will vote yes and support our school, however, I understand how important household bottom lines are.


Currently, NBES has 301 students enrolled but has a capacity limit of 208 students per the 1986 building design. That means that today, NBES is 45% overcapacity. This year’s 5th-grade has the smallest number of students at 36, and our Kindergarten has the largest number of students at 66. The typical grade size has been around 50-55, but we are estimating that number to be 60 next year. This means that the net student increase next year will be about 24 students, putting our total at 325 (59.1% overcapacity). The lack of space at NBES is a huge challenge.


All three towns have different price breakdowns, but for this letter, I will stick with North Berwick residents. The first point I would like to address is that there is a principal payment and an interest payment which is exactly the same as your mortgage. We need to borrow the money, and lenders make their money from interest. The information shared regarding tax increases to you includes both interest and principal. There are no hidden numbers or other trickery. The first year that the loan is repaid, taxpayers will make an “interest-only” payment which works out to be $3.39 per month for every $100,000 your house is assessed by the town. In the second year, you will see a larger jump in your tax bill, but this will be the maximum monthly payment for this project. This amount will be $13.16 per month for every $100,000 your house is assessed by the town. This number represents the $3.39 from year one plus the $9.77 in the second year. Every year after year two will have a small decrease as the balance goes down.


The addition to NBES will be a long-term solution to our growing population and aging school. The price of these projects will only become more expensive the longer it gets pushed off. In the short term, we will need to add four additional classrooms for the upcoming school year, most likely by renting portable units. We will need to add one per year for four years after that. Aside from the obvious fiscal reasons why that’s a bad idea, creating a campus for students as young as four years old is deeply concerning to me. Students will need to walk potentially more than a football field to enter the building to use a bathroom, see a counselor, or access any special programming. Please vote YES on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, to support our schools!


Regards,


Michael Archambault

Principal, North Berwick Elementary


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