31WVN #31- Financial Effects of $55M Project
- Aug 23, 2004WAYLAND VOTER'S NETWORK
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
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
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.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair