The middle school — pros and cons
The School Administrative District 28 board has recommended that a new middle school be constructed. Residents of Camden/Rockport will be asked to vote June 13 on a $26 million bond (debt) to fund the project, which would result in an added $10 million or more in interest cost over the life of the bond (debt).
The towns previously voted in February 2015 on a bond (debt) for a new middle school and the project was defeated by a significant margin. There was much debate as to why the voters rejected the measure, and it included not enough education of the public, affordability and timing of the vote.
The new proposed project has been in the works almost since the last proposal was defeated. A new design concept has been created and the projected cost is somewhat below the cost of the previous project. However, a significant part of the reduction is that a renovation to the “bus barn” building was included in the February 2015 proposed bond (debt) and will be listed as a separate bond (debt) proposal this time around. Having been adamantly opposed to the last bond proposal, I find myself more open at this time. Therefore, I think folks should be considering the pros and cons of the project at this time.
The educational environment would be greatly improved.
There is no doubt that a new school is needed, either now or in the foreseeable future. The current building is expensive to operate and requires constant maintenance.
The national economy is showing signs of significant improvement, and this has already resulted in interest cost increases, and these increases will probably continue.
By the time that new bond (debt) would be exercised, one of the existing bonds, which is to be retired in 2020, will be near its end.
Physical issues with the school buildings should be nonexistent for many years to come.
SAD 28 and the CSD (high school) are already burdened with three outstanding bonds (debt) for the elementary school and the high school.
County voters have already approved the construction of a new building for the tech school and this bond (debt) will add to the tax burden of Camden and Rockport.
It has been estimated that this project will result in a 5 to 7 percent increase in real estate taxes for the two communities.
There is a significant segment of our towns who are either elderly and on fixed incomes or whose children qualify for subsidized meal programs. These folks are really strained with significant tax increases.
There might be a better alternative. Read below.
There has been some concern expressed in the Union 69 (Hope, Appleton, Lincolnville) school district that their middle schools are deficient. It may be that the SAD 28 board should explore whether their deficiencies are serious enough to warrant considering a CSD-type solution for the middle school. This could be a win-win where Union 69 school problems could be solved by joining with SAD 28 for their middle school and a reduction in cost for Camden and Rockport. At the very least, this should be investigated and if the idea has merit, postpone the vote on June 13 while exploring a CSD for the middle school.
This issue is a classic example of education environment improvement versus the increased tax burden to fund the improvement. History shows that we always allot more money. However, there is no correlation between the constant increase in cost per child of education and the performance improvement of students. It is a very serious matter for Camden and Rockport to concurrently bear the debt of four new schools. Voters should weigh the benefits against the negatives and make the decision that best represents their personal situation June 13.