Cape Town council to vote next week on loan to improve school safety and school construction project planning

The Cape Elizabeth City Council will vote next week on borrowing approximately $1.8 million to improve school security and fund the initial planning phase of the school construction project.

A $1.1 million bond from the School Renewal Revolving Fund will go towards 10 safety and maintenance projects, including a new video security management system at the city’s three schools, the humidity in the high school gymnasium and the replacement of an electrical panel at the high school which burst at the start of the school year. Nearly $350,000 of the deposit will be repaid through a grant from the Maine Department of Education.

“It’s very distinct, it has nothing to do with the school construction project. We would do it anyway,” Superintendent Chris Record said. “Right now we have these buildings as they are. We have students and staff in them and we need to make safety improvements. »

The second bond to be voted on Monday, April 11 is $650,000 for the school construction project. This will allow the school department to conduct traffic studies and site surveys, plan energy and mechanical systems, and get a more accurate picture and cost of the project, Record said.

“It should be done before or after the bond vote,” he said. “We believe that whether someone votes for it or not, by getting the schematic design first, everyone will have more information about what they are voting on.”

The new construction project would replace the elementary and middle school building, which consultants and developers say has exceeded its lifespan. It will also include renovations and improvements to the secondary school, extending its lifespan by approximately 15 years.

The need for the project and its rising costs have been a source of concern for ratepayers. What in 2019 was estimated at $80 million is now expected to cost between $108 and $142 million. Some have argued that the elementary and middle school building could be renovated instead, but the school department says maintenance and upkeep costs would continue to rise.

The school board gave city council an update on the project on Monday, including potential tax implications, but City Manager Matthew Sturgis stressed the numbers would change after a reassessment scheduled for next year.

The council estimates that if the city borrows $100 million for the project with an interest rate of 2.5% over a 20-year term, the owner of a home valued at $500,000 would pay an additional $2,352 in taxes the first year of payment. If the loan is to be repaid over 30 years, this owner would pay an additional $1,878.

The tax increase would then decrease from year to year. In the fifth payout year, which will likely be in 2030, that would be $2,041 under the 20-year plan or $1,615 under a 30-year plan.

After the city’s reassessment, Sturgis said, the overall tax rate will drop, minimizing the impact of project costs on ratepayers.

“Let’s say you go for a $500,000 home, which currently has a tax bill of about $10,000,” Sturgis said, with the current tax rate of $20.26. “If you go up to $24 (tax rate), that’s going to raise it to $14,000, say 13.5, but the tax rate is going to go down.”

In 2002, before a 2003 reassessment, Sturgis said, the tax rate was $22.64. After the reassessment, the tax rate went down to $14.20.

Regardless of the final tax rate, the cost of the project would not hit taxpayers until 2025, Record said, when the project is expected to be completed.

Throughout the preliminary stages of the project, Record has consistently urged the public to provide feedback, and that will continue throughout the schematic phase, he said.

“We want to hear from people,” he said. “I’m interested in speaking with anyone who wants to talk about the project and have candid conversations and answer the tough questions. I want our constituents, whether they are in favor or not, to be informed.

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