2016-08-25 / Letters

Council to decide on school construction bond

To the editor:

The Saco City Council will hold a public hearing on the second and final reading regarding the school bond question on Monday Sept. 6. The council will decide then whether to move forward with the ballot question or vote it down. If the question is moved forward, residents will vote on Nov. 8.

A master plan to upgrade and/or replace the school physical plant is necessary to inform the public of various costs, improvements and alternatives. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government received a copy of the 2012 Assessment of the Saco Schools; however, this report is in need of updating. A copy is on the school website (www.sacoschools.org) and was made available to the council. Lacking is an update to this assessment.

Always of concern is the financing of the construction project. If the bond question passes, here is the impact to taxpayers.

Amount of construction bond (30-year bond): $21,500,000

Estimated interest for 30 years: $9,982,500

Total principal and interest: $31,482,500

Mil rate per $1,000 (year one): 64 cents

Example: An average house assessed at $211,000 would equate to $135 levy.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government knows the city will retire some current debt that will help reduce overall taxes. We have been asked: How much debt is the city retiring in fiscal year 2017? The amount estimated to be retired from debt (bonds) is $400,000. Estimated cost for the first year school construction bond payment is $1,050,000. This represents a net increase in debt payment of $650,000 in the first year.

Superintendent Dominic DePatsy has been in his position for a year. He has had the opportunity to observe, learn and become familiar with the school plant, students and teachers. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government would like the superintendent’s professional opinion regarding the physical condition of the schools, alternatives and costs. We would also like the public to be advised of future bonding impacts and how they may be affected by action or inaction.

We do recognize the position of the school board and the duty of the superintendent to promote the board’s policy; however, the community would value the benefit of his professional advice had he be given the opportunity to voice his opinion.

If it takes another six months or a year to craft the ideal master facilities plan, so be it. Saco need not rush to judgment as recently experienced in other major capital outlays.

The question is, “What option is most desirable for our current and future students?”

If the bond construction question is presented to the voters in November and passes, it would result in a 100 percent cost to local taxpayer. No state aid will be available. Saco taxpayers would fund the full construction project as stated, over $30 million for 20 years.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government realizes many individuals spent considerable time reviewing options. Thank you for your time. However, a fresh look at all alternatives is prudent at this time, given that there is new leadership both in the school and city administrator positions.

Saco schools are not falling down. We recognize Young School or a combined school does need to be built to meet the future needs of our students and community. The rebuilding does need to occur; a little sooner, than later.

We urge our civic leaders to be proactive and sit down and develop a strategic plan for our children.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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