School Board to Consider Bond Article for Roofing, Paving

Last March, voters turned down a warrant article for a 10-year bond to pay for roofing and paving projects and renovations in the school district. Now district officials want to bring the matter before the voters again this coming March.
Bond articles require a 60 percent supermajority to pass, and voters turned it down by 11 votes.

“Since the district lowered the amount requested for the Maintenance Trust Fund in hopes of receiving the necessary votes for the bond, the district fell further behind this year on necessary maintenance projects,” School District Business Administrator Peter Curro told the school board at its Tuesday, Oct. 22 meeting. “Because we came very close to the 60 percent threshold, we feel another attempt for a bond is warranted. Like last year, the majority of the funding will be for roofing and paving projects that have been delayed many years due to funding.”
Curro said the projects include finishing the paving of the Matthew Thornton Elementary School parking lot, roof replacement at the high school and middle school, and replacement of two boilers at the middle school.
“The interest rates last year were, I don’t want to say at an all time low, but pretty close to an all time low,” Curro said. “They have climbed, but are still on the very low side in the interests of a municipal bond.”
He expects the interest on a 10-year note would be between 3.1 and 3.3 percent.
Curro asked if the board were still interested in putting the bond request on the warrant.
“If so, one of the things we learned is that as a group, (we need) to do a little more selling of the need and purpose of the note than what we did last year,” Curro said.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked whether the district’s repairs would fall behind “exponentially” if the bond failed again.
“The major project that we would have concerns with is the Middle School roof,” Curro said. “Paving needs to get done, but the Middle School roof is the one critical piece that we’re watching.”
Reilly asked if the Middle School roof would fall into the emergency category and Curro said that it would.
Curro said if the bond had lost by 150 or 200 votes, district officials would have favored going with the Maintenance Trust Fund and prioritizing to get the repairs done.
Board member John Laferriere asked Curro to prioritize the list. “The reason we were looking at the bond last year is because the interest rates were so attractive, and really that was the impetus to start looking at borrowing. Boards in past years did not look at that (bonding) for obvious reasons. So I think a lot of this is going to be driven by where the rates are.”
Curro said that the amount recommended for the Maintenance Trust Fund would depend on whether the board wanted to try going with a bond or not.
Laferriere said he was noticing a lot of spending requests from the town and the school, and the impact that that may have on the district’s ability to get funding.
Curro said the problem with the bond is that “no is no.” If it fails, the projects the bond was going to pay for cannot be done. “The voters have spoken and no is no,” Curro said.
Board member John Robinson asked if it were possible to have two warrant articles, so that if one failed at a higher number, the other could have a lower number and pass, provided the first one failed.
“I’m not saying it’s a desirable thing, just if it’s possible,” Robinson said.
“It is possible and you’d have to write very carefully,” Curro responded. “That type of scenario in the old town meeting days was much more simpler. The moderator could table (the lesser) one and if the other failed, then it could be brought forward again.”
Board member Steve Young said he thinks the bond was a good business decision last year and is still a good business decision this year, and he would support a bond.
“It would be in my opinion more challenging this year because we face what my belief is a dollar increase in the tax rate this year because of the votes that were taken last year,” Young said.
Young said that they were going to have to tell people why the bond was a good business decision.
Because of the late hour, the question will be put on the board’s Nov. 5 agenda.

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