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Understanding the Middle School Referendum

Taking a look at the facts, and impact, of the $85 million referendum for bonding of a renovate-as-new project on the DePaolo and Kennedy middle schools.

School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. and members of the Board of Education are determined to make sure everyone in the public knows the facts about this year’s referendum to renovate-as-new the town’s middle schools.

So much in fact that Erardi has worked tirelessly with the board over the past two months to reach out to every school group, even opening the schools to the public so residents could see the need for themselves.

On Tuesday evening, Erardi and board members Brian Goralski, Terri Carmody, Patricia Johnson and Jill Notar-Francesco held the second of two open houses at the . The first was held last Thursday at .

“This is one of 31 meetings we have established to speak to various groups,” Erardi said Tuesday. “I have spoken with groups as small as one person and as large as 150. The ultimate goal is to get the information out there and let the taxpayers decide what is best for the community.”

Erardi has also posted many of the facts and meeting dates on his blog, which can be accessed by clicking the link provided.

Brian Goralski, chairman of the Board of Education, said the important thing to remember is that at this stage, aside from costs, the projections are a simulation and final approval of everything would be handled by a building committee consisting of both school and town staff, if the referendum is approved.

Erardi said the buildings, which were both fully functional by 1966, have not been upgraded since they were built and that has led to space concerns and added energy costs as a result of out-of-date electrical systems and heaters that cannot be adjusted.

“If voters do not approve the referendum, it is likely it will be years before it comes before them again,” Erardi said. “That won’t stop the needs. If it is not passed, we will still need to consider ways to address safety issues, but it would have to come with no help from state grants.”

Erardi, who has worked closely with architects of Fletcher Thompson and has also been in touch with state officials, said the town “has been assured” it would receive a grant for the renovate-as-new project. The state would provide grant funding for 56 percent of the costs.

So what would the project entail? Here is a look at some of the known aspects of the project proposed by referendum:

Referendum Question
As written for the ballot, voters will be asked: “Shall the Town of Southington appropriate $85,000,000 for renovations, improvements and additions to and Middle Schools; and authorize the issue of bonds and notes not to exceed $85,000,000 to finance the appropriation, the amount of such bonds and notes to be reduced by the amount of project grants received?”

Cost Information
Projected costs provided by the Board of Education.

Initial Request, before approval to referendum: $102 million
Total Project Cost to Referendum: $84,896,968
Cost Per School: $42,448,484

Grant Funding Percentage Anticipated: 56.07 percent
Grant Funding (in dollars): $47,601,729.96

Cost to Taxpayers (to be bonded after grant): $37,295,238.04
Bonding Length: 20 years
Estimated Affect on Mill Rate: 0.99 mill increase in year 1 and 0.55 mills in year 20*.

*
The town's policy is to use fair market value, or 70 percent of the actual value, as the assessed value for homes. The affect on mill rate would account for an average cost of $99 for homes with an assessed value of $100,000 and $297 for homes with an assessed value at $300,000. The exact affect on the town’s overall mill rate cannot be calculated at this time. The year to year affect on individual households would be subject to other budget factors including additional bonds on and off the books, grand list changes and changes to annual budgets.

Estimated Time-Line and Project Details
Start Date/Shovel-in-Ground: June 2013
Finish Date: June/July 2015

Existing Building: 107,450 sf
Project Proposal: 140,160 sf

Capacity Now: 600 students
Capacity After Proposed Renovation: 811 students

Project-Type: Renovate-as-new, work-around project (students present)

*Notes: Erardi said work such as asbestos removal would not be completed with students present. The town’s eight elementary schools are prepared to house grade 6 students if more space is needed, but no decisions have been made.

Scope of Work Per Building

  • 12 new general classrooms
  • Eight renovated science lab classrooms
  • New guidance/student service areas
  • New computer lab
  • Expanded multi-use cafeterias
  • Renovated kitchen
  • New Media Center
  • Two new art rooms
  • Renovated graphics and tech labs
  • Enlarged health office
  • New and renovated music rooms
  • New mechanical and electrical systems
  • New technology/security systems
  • Additional parking
  • Improved traffic circulation

Additional details are available on Erardi’s blog, available on the Southington schools website. Any residents with additional questions or concerns are urged to contact Dr. Erardi at jerardi@southingtonschools.org.

Krista October 26, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Or you could consider that the current enrollment is above the 600 students cited in the article, at each school. The climate control systems are outdated and the list goes on. If we won't build a third school to alleviate overcrowding, then we are obliged to renovate what we have. We need to do what is best for our children.
Arthur Cyr October 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Mr. "BRN2RUN" does not drive a 40 year old vehicle and doesn't buy a house that hasn't been upgraded since it was built in 1966 - BUT expects that of our schools or municipal buildings. And he is wrong. This isn't about basic maintenance, its about needed upgrades. Numerous boards and knowledgeable people have modified the plans to reduce costs and that will continue. Everyone needs to understand the difference and VOTE YES.
Scott Barner October 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM
"(evidenced by the state of disrepair of this facility)" That alone is enough for me. Let's not forget that the state also mandates code upgrades, handicap access, and a myriad of other things that a building built in 1966 does not have. The renovated elementary schools are a wonder to learn in, just the technology alone that the teachers are using to teach our children is amazing, and the children are learning skills that they WILL need in the tech world! By the way, these schools are 45 years old and the utility and heating savings over the life of the schools will save countless dollars in the long run!
JIM BARD October 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM
I attended J.F.K from 1978-1981 and it was outdated then. It is wrong to expect our children to use these outdated schools. It is time to bring our schools out of the dark ages. It appears that there has been alot of time and energy put in by the BOE and Dr. Erardi to ensure we are getting what we need for our students and I commend them for the time they sacrifced for our children. I have only one concern. My children were a part of the elementary school renovations. It was a distracting learning environment and at times unsafe. The town mismangaged the project and was taken advantage of. I hope that doesn't happen this time and that we have better controls in place.
Arthur Cyr October 27, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Yes, two of the school renovations were a mess - BUT the last two went very well. That is the system they will continue with the two Middle Schools. One big component is the Building Committee and the construction manager system. That question has been asked and answered at every informational meeting they have had.

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