Vote NO on $23,760,000.00 School Bond

Recently you received a newsletter from the Mascoma Valley Regional School Board about a planned expansion and renovation of the Mascoma Valley Regional High School. In this mailing, the School Board touted the virtues and apparent necessity of this project, and did their best to downplay the cost to taxpayers. But don’t be fooled!

This project will cost $24 MILLION over TWENTY YEARS

Why will this cost SIX TIMES what a local private school paid for a project of similar size?

And why are we doing this when the school district is LOSING STUDENTS year after year?

At the public hearing for this project, one speaker suggested that the School Board should intentionally find a way to frame the incredible cost of this project to make it as palatable as possible. And here’s what they plan to do: On the ballot this year, the school district will only ask for a mere $5,210.50 appropriation, with the remainder of the $24 million cost to be bonded. This rather small initial price tag doesn’t translate to much on our property tax bills—but in order to raise the entire $24 million, the yearly appropriation increases enormously over the next four years… and then stays at that much higher rate until the bond is paid off… around twenty years from now.

Property tax increase per $1,000 of assessed value
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4+
Canaan $0.01 $0.45 $1.47 $1.52
Dorchester $0.01 $0.48 $1.55 $1.60
Enfield $0.00 $0.37 $1.19 $1.23
Grafton $0.01 $0.46 $1.47 $1.47
Orange $0.01 $0.59 $1.92 $1.99

This table shows what we all will pay in increased property tax bills over the next two decades if this expansion of the high school is approved in March. And don’t forget—even if you rent, you still pay property taxes indirectly. Increased property taxes means increased rent!

A member of the School Board suggested that the Board should embark on a marketing campaign for this massive and expensive expansion in order to sell it to a skeptical public. One School Board member even recommended at the public hearing that they hire a professional marketing firm to do this—no doubt at further taxpayer expense.

Another member of the public at the hearing, former state representative and current Grafton budget committee member, Catherine Mulholland, suggested to the Board that they should intentionally use “scare tactics” in order to convince us to vote for this project.

“The people could
use scare tactics.”

— Catherine Mulholland
Former state representative and supporter
of this expansion and renovation project

The entire 2012–13 budget for the Mascoma Valley Region School District is approximately $21 million. This planned expansion and renovation of the Mascoma High School more than doubles that figure.

There will be NO state or federal funding for this expansion. The ENTIRE cost of this project—all $23,760,000 plus interest—will be imposed on local property owners and renters over the next two decades.

The privately-funded Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan recently embarked on an expansion and renovation of similar size and scope: They built a new hockey rink which included ice-making refrigeration equipment and visitor locker rooms with showers—and they built a new lobby and cafeteria to boot. All of this was done to modern, green environmental standards. And Cardigan Mountain School did all of this for UNDER $4 MILLION. Why is this taxpayer-funded public school project SIX TIMES more expensive?

The Mascoma Valley student body is shrinking: In 2008, enrollment across the whole school district was 1,428 students. The next year, it was down to 1,360—a loss of 68 students. This year, enrollment is down to 1,281 students—another 79 students lost. And there has been a steady, consistent drop in enrollment since 1994, when there were 1,629 students. (Source: 2012–13 school district report, page 47.) Is this the right time for us to be embarking on a renovation and expansion of the High School?

In these tough economic times, with people losing their jobs and their homes, prices going up, and our property taxes already increasing, do we really want to pay for this costly expansion and renovation to a school… which is losing students?

So if you don’t think we should pay a bloated, wasteful $24 MILLION over the next TWENTY YEARS for an expansion to a shrinking school district…

…VOTE NO on QUESTION #4 on the School Board ballot this March 13!

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