School Committee recommends 20-year repayment plan for new Wareham elementary school

Oct 4, 2018

On Thursday, Wareham School Committee members unanimously recommended a 20-year repayment plan for the proposed Decas School at Minot Forest at an interest rate higher than previously expected.

Original repayment plans for the 20-year period anticipated that the school would be paid for at 3.5 percent interest rate. That rate has since been adjusted to 3.75 percent.

“The numbers we were originally working with came from estimates that were three to four months old,” explained Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood. “The figures we have now are much more accurate.”

This change means that residents with a home value of $258,000 (the median figure for a single-family home) would see taxes increase $211.56 per year for 20 years if borrowing is approved at the October Town Meeting. The school is estimated to cost $90 million. Residents will have to pay $40 million due to a state reimbursement.

More specifically, taxes would increase 82 cents per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. Updated home assessments will be posted online the coming months according to the town’s assessors office.

Wareham residents will vote on Oct. 22 whether or not to approve borrowing at this rate, and the question of whether or not to build the new school will appear on the local ballot during the state’s Nov. 6 election.

The total cost of replacing both Minot Forest and Decas Elementary is $90 million; but because the project is eligible for reimbursement from the state, Wareham’s share would be $40 million.

“I want to make it very clear that we will never be borrowing the full $90 million,” said Town Finance Director John Foster.

Opened in back 1965, the Minot requires significant upgrades for security, electrical wiring and fire safety. Existing ceilings contain asbestos and the current plumbing system does not meet low-flow or handicap accessibility requirements.

Minot also requires extensive foundation work in addition to steel shear bracing and seismic clips throughout as necessary to meet current structural code requirements.

During the meeting, School Committee members weighed the possibility of 25-year and 30-year repayment plans.

While the longer repayment options would have lowered annual payments, board members said the town stood to save $14 million in interest payments.

“Everything we’ve done has been with the community in mind,” said committee member Rebekah Pratt. “There are folks living paycheck to paycheck, and the recommendation we’ve made is what we feel works best for voters.”

The School Committee will host two community forums for the proposed project on Oct. 13 and Oct. 15.

The Oct. 13 forum will be held at 10 a.m. in the Wareham Free Library followed by a tour of Minot Forest at 11:30 a.m.

The Oct. 15 forum will be held at 6 p.m. in the middle school auditorium.