BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a $28 million bond to build a new elementary school, joining other communities including South Portland, Portland, Wells and Biddeford that have opted to build schools without state funding.
The bond, which passed 2,040 to 1,779, will fund a school to replace the 62-year-old Coffin School, which currently uses 40-year-old modular classrooms to accommodate its students.
The new school, slated to open in 2020, will be designed to hold 660 students, including 60 students in a new preschool program, Brunswick School Board Chairwoman Joy Prescott said. It will be built on the site of the former Jordan Acres School, which closed suddenly in 2011 after a ceiling beam cracked and engineers deemed the building unsafe.
“We have a school board meeting tonight and we’re going to get started on next steps,” Prescott said.
Among those first steps, she said, will be to establish a building committee.
Opponents argued against the anticipated 4.3 percent tax rate increase triggered by the bond — an increase Prescott acknowledged is “a pretty heavy lift for any community.” Opponents urged Brunswick officials to follow the standard application process with the Maine Department of Education and await state funding to offset the cost.
But Prescott said the board realized “from looking at other communities that even if we were to make the [next] round of state funding, we’d still be looking at potentially a five- to 10 year-process before we could open the doors, and it felt like the capacity issues were enough that we needed to look at [all-local funding].”
The most recent priority list for state school funding, released in 2011, ranked 71 school district building proposals based on their relative needs for school facilities. The top 12 were designated to receive funding.
As the state’s debt ceiling allowed, an additional six projects were added in 2013 and another six in 2014 — among them, new schools to replace Morse High School in Bath and Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, both communities that abut Brunswick — and another four were added last year.
In May, the state Board of Education approved Wing Farm as the site for the new Morse High School, and the site of the new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham is undergoing soil testing and geothermal planning.
Successful applicants for the next round of state funding are expected to be announced in the summer of 2018.
Brunswick voters on Tuesday also approved a $37.4 million fiscal year 2018 school budget 2,183-1,604.