Questions Regarding 1HF/School Board Flier and Costs of Bonds

Recently 1HF/School Board have released a new flier in an attempt to provide a cost comparison between the various options that will be presented to voters on March 14th.

It has created confusion on how Article 1 could cost less than Article 2. Below is an explanation on how numbers can be finagled to get the outcome you want.

Article 1 vs Article 2

SB is assuming that by voting for Article 1, there will be no repairs and maintenance in the budget for the next 20 yrs, thereby saving $360,000 per year. They subtract this from the $500,000 per yr bond payment and come up with a number of $11 [or $9] per month cost for a $400,000 home.

If you vote for Article 2, they assume that the $360,000 for repairs and maintenance will stay in the budget for the next 20 years. They go through the same math exercise to come up with $13 per month.  Their reasoning borders on blatant dishonesty as both their assumptions are unrealistic and avoid the facts in an attempt to convince taxpayers to vote for a $10M gym project.

Facts are simple: their plan is a $10M bond that will cost the taxpayers $500,000 per year.  Article 2 addresses what they need: more space at 1/3 the cost.  Future repairs and maintenance costs would go before the voters in future budgets or warrant articles and are difficult to say what they would be from year to year. Neither article can claim to cover or anticipate future repair and maintenance costs.

Best to evaluate each article based on their individual bond costs without muddying the waters with speculations of undefined future repair and maintenance costs.

Additionally there was an exchange on Facebook that is worth mentioning here regarding the same flier. For those who don’t have or want Facebook, below are the comments from that exchange.

Amy Magnarelli asks:
Not sure how you get the monthly cost.  $7.3M over 20 years divided by 900 households is $400 per year or $34 per month.  If I use the same logic on proposal 2 I get $139 per year or $12 per month which is close to what the flyer says.  I agree we must fix the school but we need to let voters know how these numbers are calculated.

1HF Response:
That is an excellent question.  Thanks for asking.  There will be additional information released over the course of the week that will give you the break down.  There are factors such as private fundraising that will reduce the cost of the Article 1 proposal but would not reduce Article 2.  That, among other factors, will be detailed out very soon.

George Koch III asks:
I agree with the previous comment, isn’t this flyer slightly misleading? If the goal is to inform, aren’t the renovation costs that are baked into Article 2 misleading as those are not part of the bond but are part of Article 3? Also Article 1 doesn’t have any renovation costs either, as that too is included in Article 3. If Article 3 passes, the school board has said that the monies for the mobile classroom will be given back to the town. Shouldn’t that also go to say that with Article 2 the same would apply as the need for mobile classrooms is no longer the case?

1HF Response:
Article 1 is a comprehensive plan that resolves ALL identified space needs (all space needs where lack of space is negatively impacting basic educational requirements) and all identified fixes to the school including window replacement and upgrading the 1949 electrical.  Article 2 is more of a band-aid approach. Article 2 will allow the School Board to address some of the space constraints but not all, and it does not address any of the necessary fixes to the current school.  For example, Article 2 may allow the SB to create 2  classrooms for the 5th grade which will resolve the grossly undersized classroom situation for both the 5th and 6th grade.  Article 2 would also likely allow us to add a Spanish room, two bathrooms and some storage.  However in this scenario, it will not have addressed the inadequate science room, the undersized music room which is currently located in an academic wing and interferes with other classes, the lack of space for special education, maker space or other flexible work space, the interference of physical education with the cafeteria, and fixes including the windows and electrical. 

Also, as background, because Article 1 has failed over the last several years, the SB has been forced to significantly increase its annual renovation budget and introduce annual warrant articles to address fixes that would have been solved if past bonds passed.  The result is much higher taxes for the taxpayer.  This year alone, taxes related to LAS renovation were over $613,000.  This trend will continue if Article 1 fails.  This trend will also continue if Article 1 fails and Article 2 passes, because the SB will still need to address the fixes to the school and the inadequate space needs that Article 2 does not address. 

With that said, the gross cost of Article 1 is about $500,000 per year.  However, because Article 1 passes the SB will be able to offset this cost by permanently reducing its renovation line item by at least $360,000 for years to come.  The SB would not likely reduce this line item if either Article 2 passes or neither 1 or 2 pass.  So the net cost to the taxpayer annually is $140,000 for Article 1. ($500,000-$360,000) So the math is, you take $140,000 divided by the assessed valuation of the town which is $416,653,775.  Multiply that by $400,000 which is the average assessed value in town.  That gives you an annual cost of $134 or monthly cost of $11.20 for the average taxpayer.  This number is further reduced by the fundraising effort and the passage of Article 17 on the Town ballot. The fundraising effort and Article 17 only impact Article 1, not Article 2.  The reduction brings the cost down to about $9 per month for Article 1. 

Because the SB will not likely reduce its renovation line item or because the SB will need to continue separate warrant articles for fixes if Article 2 passes, then the SB  cannot reduce the $360,000 for the calculation of Article 2.  As a result, the same calculation for Article 2 comes out to about $13 per month for the average taxpayer. 

Lastly, the other concern about Article 2 is that it does not solve all the identified problems in one year.  It will take many years of construction disruption to the school, many years of warrant articles and many years of dealing with higher costs if we take the route of Article 2.  Article 1 takes advantage of low interest rates, solves all the problems cost efficiently at one time and will only cause construction disruption for one year.  Also, Article 1 assure no mobile classrooms.  Not passing Article 1 or 2 certainly means the addition of costly and unsightly mobile classrooms.  And if Article 2 passes then at least 1 mobile classroom is still very much a possibility.

George Koch III asks:
Aren’t the high costs of renovation due in part to deferred maintenance by the school board in hopes that either a new school or school renovations would be wrapped up in a larger piece of work (such as Article 1)?

Also where is it stated that Article 2 only provides X, Y and Z? I thought that per the deliberative session the language was removed for the # of classrooms and would then be up to the school board to consider how big a building they could build with $2.5M and then how to sub-divide the space based on that foot print.

The point that I was trying to make was that the math still combines Article 1 and Article 3. Article 3 if it passes along with Article 1 means that at least for year one the taxes will be raised to support both of those funding needs–is that not correct? So year 1 costs will be higher and then after the school board submits their budgets next year to remove those renovation cost line items, the cost then for their new budget would be $360k less. Also the fundraising efforts, will that be duplicated for each consecutive year? Or are those only year 1 impacts, i.e. after year 1 what is the average cost? And for Article 17, those are also only a one time benefit, the literature doesn’t indicate that after year 1 the cost for Article 1 goes up. Again not a deal breaker for most, but in the interest of clarity and disclosure, I would think that it’s important to make sure we understand the impact of each individual article correct?

If at least $210k of the renovation costs were estimated for mobile classrooms, wouldn’t it then be incumbent upon the school board to act in the towns interests to reduce that amount leaving $150k in renovation costs to continue working through the list of legacy deferred maintenance items that have accumulated over the years?

Lastly, because Article 1 will impact the existing school space whereas Article 2 doesn’t, wouldn’t this mean that it would actually be Article 1 that causes the most disruption in school for the next 3 years (Ekman’s estimate of completion)? Whereas building an addition would take half that time and wouldn’t disrupt existing classrooms?

Categories: School

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