Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mark Gold's School Building Position

Below is a letter posted this week on Mark Gold's re-election website explaining his position on the Longmeadow High School building project.

Longmeadow High School Project

One of the major issues to be addressed by the residents of Longmeadow this year is whether or not to approve the proposed high school plan. The current proposal is actually two projects in one: construction of a new classroom building and the renovation the 1971 wing. $65.6 million of the costs (all related to new construction) is eligible for 51.8% state reimbursement. The balance of the project’s $78.4 million project cost will be paid for though a $44.4 million debt exclusion bond.

In the six years (2003-2009) I served as chair of the Capital Planning committee, recognizing the needs of the high school building, I led the Capital Planning Committee in recommending the appropriation and expenditure of over $500,000 to address physical plant needs of the high school.

The needs of the high school building are very clear – particularly the physical plant issues such as heating and electrical systems, classroom amenities, and handicap accessibility. Despite the fact that the proposed project includes shortcomings that concern me, and that I would have preferred the townspeople to have been allowed direct input into selection of the final project alternative, the fact is we are presented with the project that is before us: a 186,000 sq. ft. classroom building tied to a renovated 1971 wing. There remains, however, opportunity to adjust the project scope and to control costs for the $9.4 million portion of the project related to renovations for School Administration offices, the pool, and LCTV without putting the state grant money at risk. A revised plan for financing the project that reduces the financial burden that this bond will put on the most vulnerable residents of Longmeadow can also be developed without putting reimbursement funds at risk.

Based upon the effect that the current project is likely to have on the taxpayers of Longmeadow, I am concerned that passage of this project in its current form will restrict the town’s ability to raise funds necessary for future capital needs and / or to maintain current service levels at the schools and town departments. If the issues related to expenditures for renovations to accommodate the School Department offices and the proposed financing schedule are modified to lessen the financial impact to the community I would support this project. However, as currently proposed I cannot support a project that includes the financial burdens imposed.

Should the town-wide vote reject the debt-exclusion proposal, I will suggest that the School Building Committee use the MSBA’s appeal process to, at a minimum, revise the scope of the noneligible portions of the project and alter the proposed financing plan for this project to lessen the financial burden of this project for the five to ten year period after project completion.

In summary, my objection to the proposed Longmeadow High School construction and renovation project is based on the financial burden this project will have on town residents, and the limiting effect the cost of this project may have on residents’ willingness to raise other necessary funds over the next five to ten years. With modifications to this project, and within the scope of the MSBA policies, we can provide adequate educational facilities for our students without constraining our willingness or ability to maintain the level and balance of our school and town services.

Mark P. Gold
Candidate for Re-election
Longmeadow Select Board
May 10, 2010

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