Town on track to save big on new school

Aug 31, 2020

The numbers are in: Taxpayers will save $11.5 million dollars on the Minot Avenue elementary school that is currently under construction, meaning tax bills will increase by far less than anticipated to pay for the new building.

A debt exclusion to temporarily raise taxes to pay for the new school was approved by voters and at Fall Town Meeting in 2018.

Original estimates put the tax increase at 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value over a 15-year period — but the actual cost per taxpayer works out to less than 50 cents.

The savings are due to several factors: Bids came in well under estimates, the interest rates on loans secured by the town are very low, and the state agency funding the bulk of the project decided to let Wareham reap one hundred percent of those savings.

“You may remember the $38.6 million district share projection that we had back at the time of the local debt exclusion. That current district share target is $27.2 million. So that’s a savings of $11.5 million,” Project Manager Chad Crittenden said at Monday’s Minot Forest School Building Committee meeting. “That combined with the interest rate savings will have a huge impact on the local share of the debt service.”

The winning bid during the bidding process came in far under estimates.

Usually, most of those savings would go to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the state-run agency that is paying for roughly 60 percent of the project’s cost (or 75 percent of eligible costs).

That is, the MSBA is reimbursing the town for 75 percent of the cost of the building itself, and a lower rate for costs of outside work.

Committee Chair Geoff Swett reported that Town Treasurer John Foster was able to borrow money with an interest rate that was half of what was originally projected.

“It’s a really nice win for the town, and I think the town deserves it,” Swett said.