Town Boards Weigh Means to Finance Lane School Expansion

By Meredith McCulloch

FinanceCommitteeThe Finance Committee appears to be in agreement that an addition to Lane School is necessary, but there is not yet a consensus on how to pay for it. Jon Sills, School Superintendent, presented the preliminary plans to the Finance Committee at their meeting on March10. All five Selectmen were also present. The recommendation for the project and a potential debt exclusion vote are on the Selectman’s agenda for Monday, March 14.

Early in this year, when the total cost was estimated at 2 million dollars, the expectation was that the project would be financed through current taxes. However, as plans were developed, the estimated cost increased to closer to 4 million dollars. First of all the School Committee, responding to warnings about the risk of too small an addition, decided to add two more classrooms for a total of four. In addition,as plans were being developed,code violations surfaced that must be corrected. The single stairwell to the second floor is inadequate for the level of student traffic, the number of restrooms must be increased, and the cafeteria space will need to be expanded.

The additional classrooms, correction of the code violations, and an increased contingency allowance (from 10% to the recommended 20%) add up to an estimated 4 million dollar project.

The feasibility study describes several configurations for the addition. The School Committee is recommending 1C which has additional classrooms can be found athttps://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/images/stories/pdfs/super/lane%20school%20feasibility%20study%202-19-16%20final.pdf

With the higher cost, the Selectmen are considering calling for a debt exclusion override. The debt exclusion must be approved by voters at a town meeting and again on a town-wide ballot. Taxpayers would be assessed for the cost above the Proposition 2-1/2 limit, but it would not permanently raise the limit on taxes. The rationale is that bonding the project within current cash flow would reduce the town’s flexibility to pay for future capital projects. Overtime, additions to the Davis School and John Glenn Middle School are anticipated, along with improvements to the fire station. A possible reduction in state aid or in Chapter 90 funds, which pay for road improvements, could also stress annual budgets.

The Finance Committee was clearly divided about which path to take, though the final decision lies with the Selectmen. Finance Committee member Ben Thomas put the mood succinctly, “We are going to support Lane School. We just need to decide how.”


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