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31WVN #31- Financial Effects of $55M Project

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  • waylandvoters
    Aug 23, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      August 23, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Various observers submitted the following notes on last week's High School
      Building Committee meeting.

      HSBC Meeting August 19, 2004

      HSBC accused of Playing Politics

      A member of the Wayland Planning Board accused the High School Building
      Committee of playing politics with questions involving the cost to taxpayers of
      the $55 million project.

      During a 2-1/2-hour meeting, the committee discussed a "tax impact analysis"
      estimating high and low construction costs, interest rates and loan terms.
      There was no consensus on when and how to give voters information to
      calculate the effect on their property taxes. The project involves many
      unknowns, largely because the state's new school construction aid plan
      hasn't been spelled out in detail.

      During the brief time for public comment, Planning Board member Anette
      Lewis asserted, "I feel we're playing a political game -- and I don't appreciate

      During the years that various committees have worked on the project, she
      said, little has changed except interest rates, so the town should by this time
      be able to produce useful tax impact information.

      "We can't wait until October for figures," Lewis said. "We need to see them
      sooner rather than later." The committee neither confirmed nor denied Lewis'
      speculation that the town will call a special election next winter. Voters will
      also be asked, not necessarily at the same election, to approve an override
      for town operations of at least $1 million.

      Lewis estimated that the project would raise her taxes by about 12.5 percent.
      Committee members have suggested 9 to 10 percent.

      But the committee's tax impact analysis, which assumes that the state will pay
      nearly a third of the cost, includes few figures. It assumes that a new high
      school (preserving only the field house) would cost no more than $56 million
      and that the state would contribute at least $18.4 million of that. Wayland
      would have to borrow only its share, about $37.6 million. There is no
      guarantee of state aid.

      The analysis also assumes borrowing over 25 or 30 years at 4-5 percent
      interest, except for an initial period of 2 to 7 years at 1.5 to 3 percent. One
      problem with the analysis is that the Massachusetts Legislature won't even
      begin discussing the length of allowable school bonding until at least

      And, as member Mary Lentz noted, "July 1, 2007 is when we find out what the
      rules are."

      The committee plans to present a project of about $55 million as a good
      investment for the town, designed to last 40 or more years.

      In a recent letter to Chairman Lea Anderson, member Joe Lewin said, "I do
      not think it is a certainty that we will get SBA (school building assistance)
      reimbursement and I think it is a real possibility that we won't get it until well
      after 2007. However, I do think we are more likely than not to get it. Nothing is
      certain in a political arena. We don't know what the priorities for selection
      are...I think the town can take that risk (of starting before all SBA matters are
      settled) as long as there is the understanding that it is not a certainty we get
      the money and we are willing to deal with that possibility."

      Given the number of unknowns, committee members were wary about
      issuing tax impact projections that could turn out to be misleading.

      HMFH Architects and Turner Construction Co. promised to deliver by
      September 30 the "minimum cost project" requested by a number of voters,
      but the builders and the committee showed little enthusiasm for it.

      "We have to go through this exercise," said Diane Bladon.

      In earlier meetings Dick Amster of Turner had said that "the campus cries out
      for $50 million" and that even a minimal job could cost $40 million.

      Because a minimal plan wouldn't meet the specifications of school
      administrators, the committee agreed to present it as a stopgap.

      Presentations from HMFH and Turner made it clear that many aspects of the
      project remain open to change, though the committee emphasized that the
      total cost must remain roughly the same. One new idea would create three
      new buildings rather than one in order to preserve some of the campus
      atmosphere that students favor. Superintendent Gary Burton supported the
      idea but received a cool reception from the committee.

      "I wouldn't be willing to pay a high premium," said member Diane Bladon.

      HMFH presented a plan for 674 parking spaces, a 78 percent increase over
      the present 379. The figure was based largely on the assumption that
      occasionally a sellout crowd of 850 in the new theater would watch 100
      performers. Members raised concerns, including environmental
      considerations. (To protect two nearby town wells, parking lots must be
      impervious to dripping oil, and runoff must be treated.) Burton said the school
      could operate with fewer spaces by scheduling events to reduce evening
      parking demands.

      Another plan would replace the field house along with the rest of the existing

      NEXT MEETING: Community forum at WHS , 7:30-9:30 p.m. August 26. Tours
      of the campus begin at 6:30. A representative of the Massachusetts treasurer
      has been invited to speak. Chairman Anderson said she hoped to allow time
      for an hour of public comment.

      Next regular meeting of the HSBC: September 9, 7:30 p.m.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your friends
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair