What is the potential tax impact to the residents of Attleboro?
The question of the tax impact on residents has been brought up throughout the process. The School Building Committee (SBC) spent hundreds of hours determining the size and scope of the building the City needed for our students while keeping in mind the project’s impact on the residents. Determining the exact impact on the average household is not possible but the SBC has attempted to provide an estimate. The $393 amount is a conservative estimate based on the average home value of $280,000. The amount that we will need to finance will only be known after the bids come in. Additionally, the type of financing model we choose will be dependent on the financial climate. The building committee will work with officials to determine which the best model is at that time. Keep in mind that the net effect of this project on the residential tax bill is all we can estimate and any changes will be affected by other factors including changing house values, changes in the tax base, etc.
What would a “Yes” vote mean?
A “Yes” vote would allow the City to move forward with the construction of a new high school. After the vote, the project would go out to bid, with construction on the new school beginning in the spring of 2019. The new school would be completed and ready for occupancy in the fall of 2022, and the existing high school would be demolished and the parking lots and new athletic fields completed in 2023. The benefits to the students and the community are significant and explained in detail in many of the other answers. Some highlights are:
What are the community benefits of a new Attleboro High School?
Why do we need a new high school building?
Our current high school is 57 years old and has outlived its useful life. At this point, the building is crumbling and key systems like heating, plumbing, electrical and windows are nearing failure. In addition, the building was not designed to accommodate a 21st century learning environment. Important educational features, such as collaborative space, modern and large lab and CTE space, and technological and electrical infrastructure are not present in the current building and cannot be easily added.
How much usable life is left on the existing high school? Do we really need to do this now?
The existing high school has outlived its useful life. Specifically, the mechanical systems in the existing high school are beginning to fail and are likely to suffer a major breakdown within the next five years.
How much will the new school cost?
The total budget for a new school is currently estimated at $265,000,000. Of this amount, the MSBA is estimated to provide at least $135,000,000, with the City being responsible for the remaining $130,000,000.
What does the cost of the new building include?
The cost of the project includes all costs to design, construct and furnish the new school. The project costs also include expenses to demolish the existing building, site work and landscaping as well as the creation of new athletic fields, parking lots and roadways.
Could the project go over budget?
The School Building Committee (SBC) has diligently reviewed the number and released a very conservative estimate that it considers the “worse case scenario” for the cost of the project and the amount of MSBA reimbursement. These numbers include contingencies for increases in construction costs over time, project overlays and change orders that would otherwise sometimes result in a project going over budget. The SBC is cognizant of the taxpayer's’ reliance on the numbers it has put forward and has worked to provide estimates that present an accurate picture of the most the project will cost and the most the city, and the taxpayers, will pay as part of the project.
Can we just repair the existing high school building?
The current high school was not designed, or built, with the expectations of major renovations or upgrades. For example, the heating system is located below the concrete floors of the building, meaning any major repair or replacement to the heating system and pipes will require jack hammering through the floor throughout the building in order to access the current systems. In addition, the building predates many modern codes, such as ADA, fire and seismic codes. While the building is currently exempt from compliance with these codes, any repairs with a cost over $10 million within 3 years will trigger the following code upgrades:
Would it be less expensive for the City to just simply repair the existing high school?
No. The current estimate to simply repair the existing building and bring it into code compliance is $197 Million. Meanwhile, the estimated cost for a new school is $260 Million. While the Commonwealth will reimburse over 50% of the expenses of a new school, it will not reimburse the costs for just repairs. Using the most conservative estimates, therefore, the City’s share of the cost for a new school would be $130 Million as opposed to the $197 Million it would pay for just some of the repairs that are needed.
Can’t we just avoid spending $10 million within 3 years and not trigger the code upgrades?
The law does not allow for the segmenting of a project in order to avoid code compliance. Because of how the current high school building was built and its age, it is not possible to avoid spending $10 million. A few factors to consider:
What are the educational benefits of a new Attleboro High School?
A new high school will allow the school’s top notch educators to provide a 21st Century education through access to modern facilities, technology and equipment. For example:
Does the state reimburse for major repairs ie: heating system? roof?
The Commonwealth has different programs that provide some reimbursement for repairs to the building. The City initially applied to a program to provide reimbursement for repairs to the mechanical systems and windows, but were asked by the Commonwealth to opt out of that program since the high cost of such repairs would not be justified by the limited extension of the building’s useful life and the lack of educational benefits of such repairs.
Why can’t we apply for reimbursement from the MSBA for the repairs?
Just focusing on making repairs to the existing building will not not address the educational needs of our students. A repair to the existing high school would not be within the scope of the MSBA’s commitment to “invest in finding the right-sized, most fiscally responsible, and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe, sound, and sustainable learning environments.” The City originally applied to the MSBA for replacement of the heating system. After visiting the school, the MSBA asked the City to apply to its core program, for a complete rebuild, as the repairs necessary would have been exceedingly costly and would not have met the educational needs of the students or the needs of the community.
What determines the final project cost?
Once the plans are approved by the MSBA, a bidding process will begin and the project will be awarded to the lowest eligible and responsible bidder.
What would a ‘No’ vote mean?
The rejection of a debt exclusion by voters does not make the problem go away. The City has been pursuing a grant from the MSBA for many years. If the voters do not approve a debt exclusion allowing this project to move forward, the City will be forced to the end of the line in seeking and obtaining MSBA support in the future. Students will continue to suffer due to the inability of the current building to provide a 21st Century learning environment through key features such as collaborative space, modern labs and infrastructure for technology. Meanwhile, the City and School budgets will continue to suffer due to the high costs associated with maintaining an outdated building, and the danger of the imminent failure of the school’s mechanical systems will remain. When these systems fail, the City will be faced with approximately $200 million in expenses to repair and replace the systems and bring the building into code compliance. Since the repair project is outside the MSBA’s Core Program, the city will bear this expense alone. An unsubsidized city repair of the high school building WILL cripple operating budgets for both the city and the schools. The longer we wait, the more costly the project becomes.Supporting this project is critical to both the City and its schools.
How much State funding would we lose if we vote “no”?
Approximately $135 Million
Why spend money on a new high school when we can’t afford to staff the building?
The operational budget problems of the school department and the deficiencies of the current Attleboro High School are two separate issues that both require immediate attention. While the issues are separate, replacing the existing high school will help in relieving the school department’s fiscal struggles. Specifically, reduced utility costs and maintenance costs for an old, broken-down building will result in approximately $500,000.00 in annual savings that the school department will be able to reallocate towards more appropriate educational expenses, such as staffing. Similarly, by adding 4 additional CTE programs and increasing the number of CTE students at AHS, the school department will receive increased state aid. For instance, if the school department were to reach its goal of 50% of AHS students being in a CTE program, it could result in an additional $1 million in annual state aid, which, again, would be utilized towards increased staffing and other appropriate educational expenses.
What Is A Debt Exclusion?
A debt exclusion is used to borrow money for major capital projects. In that case, the City is authorized to raise those additional funds only for the length of the borrowing. For example, if a city issues 20 year bonds to borrow money for the new high school, the debt exclusion will come off the tax rolls after the bonds are repaid. A debt exclusion (like one for the new Attleboro High School) is temporary for the length of the bond. In this case, it would last for 27 years, with the vast majority of the debt being repaid over the middle twenty years.
How much operational costs savings per year will the new high school bring?
Savings from reduced maintenance and utility costs is expected to exceed $500,000 per year.
When will a debt exclusion vote take place?
Upon the MSBA’s approval of the City’s submission of plans for a new school, the City will have 120 days to fund the project. Because Attleboro does not have the capacity to fund the project from its operating budget, a debt exclusion will be necessary and the election will be held within this 120 window. It is expected that the MSBA will approve the City’s submission at its December 2017 meeting, meaning the debt exclusion vote will need to take place in the early spring of 2018.