15 Sep 2014
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School Projects to go to First Vote at Saturday's Hamilton Town Meeting

Voters at Hamilton's Fall Town Meeting on Saturday will decide on whether to fund repairs to elementary school buildings.

School Projects to go to First Vote at Saturday's Hamilton Town Meeting School Projects to go to First Vote at Saturday's Hamilton Town Meeting

Voters at two upcoming Town Meetings – starting this Saturday at 9 a.m. in Hamilton at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School – will decide whether to put $2 million in capital spending on the fall ballot.

The Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee has assembled a $4 million plan to address physical deficiencies in the schools, starting with two bonds totaling $2.075 million for major repairs to elementary schools.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has accepted repair of the Cutler Elementary School roof into its Accelerated Repair Program, which could result in reimbursement of 43.3 percent of the cost of $575,000.

Because the MSBA requires that projects it subsidizes be bonded separately from those it does not, the District must ask for two bonds. Spending on the Cutler project will be Article 2-1 on the Hamilton Town Meeting warrant. The entire warrant is attached to this story as a PDF.

The MSBA did not accept other Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District projects, including replacement of the Winthrop Elementary School roof, into the program.

The other projects include replacement of the Winthrop Elementary School roof in a second bond for $1.5 million. The condition of the Winthrop school roof is in such poor condition that the school district said it cannot wait for possible MSBA approval through its Major Repair program, which could take two to three years.

Other projects that are part of the second, $1.5 million bond, also includes installation of insulation and a fire suppression system at Buker Elementary School. Some of the work is eligible for grants from National Grid after completion.

“All these projects require immediate attention,” School Committee Chairman Roger Kuebel said during a voter forum last week.

Delaying these projects any longer would result in increased costs and possible risks to the health and safety of students and staff, according to the Facilities subcommittee of the School Committee.

A 20 year level-funded bond is expected to add $7 to $8 per $100,000 of assessed value to property taxes over the entire 20 years.

For the average assessed value of a home in Hamilton - $390,000 - the bond would add $31.54 to the tax bill each year for 20 years. The cost of the project could be reduced by as much as 20 percent based on the state government and National Grid reimbursement.

In Wenham, the average tax bill for the average assessed value of $467,000, the tax bill would go up by $32.62 annually for 20 years to cover the projects, according to Kuebel. Again, the potential reimbursements could lower that by up to 20 percent.

The estimates are based on an approximate allocation of two-thirds to Hamilton and one-third to Wenham using a three year average enrollment per the Regional Agreement.  The Towns will borrow only the actual amount needed, but MSBA requires voter approval for a bond for the total amount of the projects.

Kuebel said that even if the decision is made at some point to no longer use Winthrop as an elementary school, the work still needs to be done and can not wait.

A study by Dore and Whittier two years ago recommended that the district continue with three schools.

The Regional School District has also submitted additional projects totaling $1.8 million to the MSBA, including replacement of old inefficient boilers. But since the state School Building Authority is still considering these projects for possible reimbursement from its Major Repair program, the School Committee said it will wait until 2014 to ask for funding.

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