Wareham’s share of proposed $90 million school expected to be $39.8 million

Oct 16, 2018

With two votes on a proposed $90 million elementary school approaching, Wareham School Building Committee members told Selectmen on Tuesday the town’s share of the project will be between $38.6 million and $39.8 million.

Voters at the Oct. 22 Town Meeting will be asked to authorize borrowing up to $39.8 million ahead of the Nov. 6 general election for a new, combined elementary school. Borrowing the money is a two-step process that requires Town Meeting approval and then a “yes” from residents on the November ballot question. The remaining funds would be reimbursed by the state.

Tentatively named the Decas School at Minot Forest, the new school would be built at the site of the current Minot Forest School. The 159,000-square-foot, three-story building would be designed to educate 1,020 students from kindergarten through Grade 4. The $90 million cost includes furnishings and technology for the school, moving services, architect fees, inspection fees, traffic studies and the removal of hazardous material from the site during demolition. The fields, playgrounds and parking lots at the school will also be resurfaced within the $90 million, which also includes an allowance for any unexpected increases in construction costs.

To fund the project, residents will be asked to approve a “debt exclusion” to the tax-limiting Proposition 2-1/2. Unlike an “operational override” such as voters failed to approve several years ago, a debt exclusion raises property taxes only for as long as is needed to repay a specific debt and only for as long as is needed to repay the debt. In this case, an increase in taxes would be used to repay $39 million over 20 years. The additional tax is an estimated 82 cents per $1,000 of home valuation. Someone with a home value of $258,000 - the median figure for a single-family home in Wareham – would see taxes increase $211.56 per year.

Chad Crittenden of PMA Consultants, the firm hired to help guide the design process, said the final amount residents will be asked to fund won’t be known until state officials review the final design plans. Those plans will be submitted to state officials on Oct. 17 and reviewed over the next three weeks.

“We know there will be a negotiation, but the upper limit is $39.8 million,” said Crittenden.

Crittenden and School Building Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi stressed that while the $39.8 million estimate may be slightly lower, it can not go any higher due to state law.

For more information on the proposed school, visit http://newschool.warehamps.org/

Town Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters may attend and participate.