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The $85 Million Question: Middle School Referendum

Do you have enough information to make an informed vote on the town's $85 million middle school referendum?

When voters take to the polls today, they will be asked to vote on an $85 million referendum which would allow the town to move forward with renovations at the and middle schools.

It's a move that Brian Goralski, the chairman of the heading into Tuesday's elections, said Monday would be beneficial to the school district and town as a whole. It's also a decision he said voters need to make for themselves.

"If there is one thing people should understand, it's that this is a project that would take 50-year-old buildings and making relevant and appropriate for today’s educational needs," Goralski said. "I felt we've done a good job getting the right information out there and I hope it results in a vote that is best for the entire community."

Over the past two months, School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. has helped lead the way in providing 31 informational sessions throughout the community including speaking to groups as small as one person and as large as 150 people. Teachers, Board of Education members, administrators and parents alike have all been out at various businesses and location passing out flyers as well.

The board had also planned on going door-to-door, but decided against it after the Oct. 29 storm that left more than 13,000 in Southington without power, instead allowing people to have the privacy of dealing with any issues they may have with their homes, properties and families, Goralski said.

Erardi, who has worked closely with architects of Fletcher Thompson and has also been in touch with state officials, said in October that 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.

On Monday, Erardi said the decision is now up to the people.

"From my perspective, our intent was to do the best work we could to share information with community," he said. "We ended yesterday with business campaign and at Recreation Park to hand out flyers. We are confident that the community is informed and further confident that with information, (the public) will cast their ballot in an educated manner."

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?”

You will be asked to vote yes or no. Let's take a look at the facts of the project:

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.

Tony Canardi November 08, 2011 at 11:02 AM
I don't know what gloriaconnors comment has to do with the Kennedy renovation but I do know from what else I've heard that I am voting against this project. It is a waste of money at at time when people are having trouble paying their mortgages, debt will be heaped on taxpayers when the can't payoff their own mortgages and there are so, so many other investments that Town needs to make and funding shortages we will have to cover if we want existing programs to continue. This is not the time to implement this project.
Joanne Kelleher November 08, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I will be voting Yes! It is way past the time to address this aging infrastructure. You wouldn't live in a home that hasn't been updated in 50 years. By doing it now the Town can take advantage of State funding. If you are voting no, ask yourself when was the last time you visited Kennedy or DePaulo to see the condition of the schools.
Arthur Cyr November 08, 2011 at 08:50 PM
I voted YES and so should all voters that understand we can not continue to put off renovating and maintaining our schools, roads and public buildings. A "waste of money"?? Go to either middle school and visit the second floors, where the heat pours out and bakes the staff & students while the ones on the first floor freeze. The energy savings alone every year will keep our town budgets under control. Answer this question - DO YOU drive a 40 year old car? Do you live in a house with kitchens, bathrooms and a roof that have never been replaced? Thats the condition of those two schools! Wise up people.
Jack November 08, 2011 at 10:00 PM
The condition of the schools is exactly the point. The BOE cuts corners and fails to maintain their existing facilities, so we should pour more cash at them? I think not.
Arthur Cyr November 08, 2011 at 10:25 PM
#1, they do not cut corners. #2, they are dealing with 40 year old heating systems and windows. #3, neither school is ADA handicapped compliant. #4, both roofs are nearly 20 years old. SO ASK YOURSELF, would you be living in YOUR home with 1960's electrical, heating and windows?? I think not.

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