Brunswick school upgrade plan could trigger 10 percent property tax increase

Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace knocks on one of the sixth grade classrooms' thin walls in a February file photo from The Forecaster. &quotThis is not very good for sound," he said at the time.
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace knocks on one of the sixth grade classrooms' thin walls in a February file photo from The Forecaster. "This is not very good for sound," he said at the time.
Posted May 30, 2013, at 4:47 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The School Board reconvened Wednesday on plans to upgrade two schools, nearly three months after architects presented a $38 million estimate for major renovations.

But no further decisions are likely to be made for Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School until the board meets again in June.

Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects, the firm hired to work on the school facilities plan, presented the cost of constructing a new junior high school at the request of the board.

The board also heard about the potential impact a large project like the school facilities plan could have on taxpayers, and new options for moving the School Department bus garage to Brunswick Landing.

A major renovation of Brunswick Junior High School has been estimated to cost just over $19 million dollars, Keck said. Construction of a new junior high school would cost almost $10 million more, or more than $28 million.

Board members had asked for estimates of a new junior high school to better assess all of their options when considering how to address the aging facilities at Coffin Elementary School and the junior high school.

Financial Director John Eldridge presented bond options for the board to consider if it decides to propose taking out a bond to fund the school facilities plan.

“The bond market has gotten very comfortable with 30-year debt on new projects. … We would have to have some idea as to what the life-cycle expectancy was,” Eldridge said. “The basic takeaway from all of this is it’s not going to be inexpensive, especially with no state participation.”

The financial director also provided the board with some scenarios of how a school facilities bond would affect the tax rate.

Eldridge said if the School Department takes out a $38 million bond with a 20-year life and 3.5 percent interest rate, the town’s first payment would be around $3.3 million, which would amount to a 10 percent increase in the property tax rate.

“Obviously, it’s a huge challenge,” Eldridge said. “If you even did level payments you could get it down to a little bit over $2.5 million. That’s still an 8 percent tax increase. … That’s the magnitude of the numbers we’re talking about.”

Wes Thames, vice president of Priority Real Estate Group, presented a proposal for the School Department to build a new bus garage on a lot at Brunswick Landing.

To build a new 8,400-square-foot garage, Thames said, planning, site work and construction of the facility would cost about $2.4 million. A lease of the land would cost $25,000 a year.

The board will begin to discuss the direction of the school facilities plan at a facilities workshop in late June.

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