To citizens of Camden and Rockport

By Maria Libby | Jun 08, 2017

As approval of our school budgets and a new middle school proposal will soon go to vote, I wanted to take a moment to clear up some questions regarding the language of the middle school bond, and to help our community better understand the fiscal management and oversight of the school system.

Regarding the middle school bond, the ballot question asks for your approval for the MSAD 28 school board to borrow $25.2 million dollars. Many have asked if approval of this bond necessarily results in the demolition of the Mary E. Taylor wing in the existing facility. It does not. The ballot question includes additional language which places specific limits on how the school board may use the bonded money. Specifically, it is limited to actions which may be necessary to construct a new middle school and then demolish the existing facility once the new one is constructed. This language does not require demolition of the entire middle school facility, it only permits the money to be used for demolition. Determining what to do with the Mary E. Taylor wing is a separate issue.

As you may know, the MSAD 28 school board initially voted in December 2016 to demolish MET if the bond passes. However at the recent May 18 board meeting the school board unanimously voted to reconsider options for MET. In 2015,voters indicated that they were unwilling to spend the amount of money it would take to renovate MET for district needs. During the course of this project, the town of Camden expressed little to no interest in the building. Without a viable use for the building on the table and not having the resources to renovate it, the school board voted to demolish it along with the rest of the facility if the middle school bond vote passed allowing a new building to move away from the tree line and enabling construction of a useful practice field.

Some members of the community have since made it known that there is a strong interest in preserving the MET building. As such, the school board voted unanimously to reconsider the issueand allow for more community input on the MET issue. Discussion about the future of the MET building is on the agenda for the June 15 school board meeting. I assure you those discussions will continue in earnest and all viable options for the MET wing will be considered again. We appreciate all the feedback you as a community have provided throughout the process of bringing this bond to a vote, and look forward to your continued input as we seek to improve the facility for our middle schoolers.

In terms of fiscal management and oversight of the bond finances, the middle school project will be managed by the MSAD28 School Board, in a professional, transparent, and fiscally responsible way. Our district has a long history of exemplary fiscal management. There are a series of checks and balances that ensure a thorough and transparent budget process that allows for community feedback; the business manager, the superintendent, and two board members approve every expense; there is a monthly, public review of actual expenditures against budgeted expenditures; and an independent accountant audits the finances each year. Because our practices are so thorough, we have never overspent our budget, nor have we ever received a citation as the result of an audit.

For the middle school project, the school system does not have the authority to spend more on a building project than what the community has approved, so if circumstances change or unexpected issues arise during the project, adjustments are made to keep the building construction within budget. The school board will hire a clerk of the works and an owner’s representative to provide day-to-day expert management and direct oversight of the work. These people will be able to spot potential problems and have them addressed before they resultin additional costs or time delays. The school board followed a similar procedure with both the high school and elementary school building projects and both came in at or under budget. Additionally, the school board has selected Oakpoint Associates as the architect for the middle school project. They have an excellent history in designing and building schools, including Lincolnville Central School, Jefferson Village School, and Vinalhaven School, which have all come in under or on budget.

Finally, I went to school in the CRMS facility from grades 5 –12. I worked in the middle school building for 14 years. I have now worked in the Bus Barn for four years. I am intimately familiar with our facilities, our finances, and our needs. I am also a resident of Camden. I am incredibly invested in our communities and I care deeply about our students and our citizens, young and old. And I hate wasting money, mine or anyone else’s. I would not be advocating for a new middle school unless I firmly believed that it was our best course of action. I have no doubt that a new building at this time is the most fiscally prudent decision for us as a community. It will save us all money in the long run, not to mention the other benefits we will reap with a new middle school that is thoughtfully designed to meet our needs. Failure to pass this bond will result in our hard earned money being “wasted” to upgrade and maintain a building that is well beyond its useful life. Please trust the thorough, transparent, and high quality school proposal done by the administration, the board, the building committee, and the architects as you go to the polls on Tuesday.

Maria Libby is Superintendent of Schools for SAD 28.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Ben Ellison | Jun 11, 2017 10:45

I’m excited about a new middle school even though I’m 70 years old. Education is key not just to personal success, but the future of us all. And we know now beyond a doubt that a good education starts early.

 

It’s also been wonderful to have some young families move to our area, and what looks like a well designed new Middle School facility will encourage that trend. Construction techniques and space design has improved a great deal since the old school(s) were new. Plus the proposed 250 seat theater could be great for local theater groups, which I could enjoy as I get even older.

 

Finally I don’t see a problem financially. This is a good investment in our community and the alternative patching does not look like a good deal. (I do feel bad for people my age who struggle to pay their property taxes, but that is an issue that we should fix statewide, I think.)

 

Please join me and lots of other old you-know-what’s voting YES for the new Middle School.




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