The city’s combined elementary school construction project now has a price tag for taxpayers.
If the residents of Gloucester approve the debt exclusion on Nov. 3, the city has projected that it will cost Gloucester homeowners $.20/$1,000 to cover the almost $40 million of expenses to combine East Gloucester and Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School.
“We are trying to moderate what the impact is going to be on the tax rate,” said the city’s Chief Financial Officer John Dunn, noting that if a home was assessed at $500,000, the total increase of taxation would be $100 a year.
The Massachusetts School Building Association has agreed to grant $26.9 million towards funding the construction project, which has a total estimated cost of $66.7 million.
If the Nov. 3 vote goes in favor of the project, Gloucester taxpayers will see the city exceed the state’s Proposition 2 ½ tax cap for the time needed to pay off the debt without raising the actual tax base.
In the case of this proposed debt exclusion, the tax levy will return to its previous level once the project is paid off.
Dunn confirmed that unanticipated costs have been factored into the proposed budget and he has requested a loan order of $4.2 million to cover the cost of swing space rental for the Veterans Memorial students and staff, the relocation of the Mattos ball field and the demolition of the East Gloucester Elementary School building and resulting site work.
If the November vote does not pass, Superintendent Ben Lummis explained that there are two likely paths for the district.
“Both of them are quite difficult,” Lummis said.
The first is to restart from the beginning with MSBA and the second would lead to the district attempting to maintain two substandard buildings at East Gloucester and Veterans’ Memorial.
Restarting from the beginning of the MSBA would lead to a new project timeline, and if approved in 2022, the best case scenario has constriction beginning in 2025, at a cost of $20 million more than the current project cost of $66.7 million.
With five years of cost escalation at about 5% per year, the project cost would equal $85 million, according preliminary calculations.
If the district were to choose to maintain the facilities they already have, the project cost to do so with no learning space or program improvements is about $18 million per school, a total of $36 million.
For minimal space and program improvements, Lummis explained, would cost each school $31 million and could still require a debt exclusion vote.
A pivotal point in the process
A process that dates all the way back to 2014, City Councilors and School Committee members are eager to create opportunities for the community.
“What we have before us is a fabulous opportunity for the students of Gloucester as well as the families and the neighborhood,” School Committee Chairperson Jonathan Pope said. “This new facility will not only be a 21 century educational facility, it will also be a community asset.”
Brad Dore of architecture designer Dore & Whittier outlined that a new school building was the result of identifying the needs of the community.
The needs, after inspection, include fixing overcrowding, outdated facilities, lack of technology, and failing facilities.
While not everything about the design is set in stone, Dore explained that MSBA’s grant amount “is fixed in stone. No matter what happens, it will never go up.”
“Those are our guardrails,” he added.
Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.