Barrington Middle School project moving forward

Council votes in support of middle school bond, exceeding 4 percent tax cap

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/10/17

The Barrington Middle School project is moving forward.

At its meeting on Monday night, the Barrington Town Council voted more than once to approve various measures of the project. First, it voted …

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Barrington Middle School project moving forward

Council votes in support of middle school bond, exceeding 4 percent tax cap

Posted

The Barrington Middle School project is moving forward.

At its meeting on Monday night, the Barrington Town Council voted more than once to approve various measures related to the project. First, it voted to approve the resolution supporting the construction of the new middle school in an amount not to exceed $68.4 million. 

New streetlights installed all across Barrington.

Then the council voted to approve exceeding the 4 percent tax cap — a move that is crucial to affording payments on the middle school bond.

And finally the five-member town council voted to have a special financial town meeting on Thursday, March 16, at which residents will be asked to vote on exceeding the tax cap.

Members of the school committee and the building committee, along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent, shared a brief presentation with members of the council. They spoke about how officials had trimmed back the initial cost estimate from more than $80 million to around $70.7 million currently. They added that more work was taking place to further reduce the estimate below the required bond amount.

Council member Kate Weymouth told school officials that it seemed they were focused on $68.4 million as the goal cost, not a lower figure as had previously been discussed. 

"I'm disappointed," she added.

Patrick Guida, a co-chairman of the building committee, said officials are hoping that further savings — possibly less than the $68.4 million figure — can be realized during the bid process. 

Council member Steven Boyajian questioned some of the information from the presentation, including the timing of the bond. Mr. Boyajian said the bond will "go to market" in March, but that was months before the job goes out to bid and a final figure is secured. 

Mr. Guida concurred that officials will not have a final cost estimate on the middle school project until after the bond goes out, but added that "we will not be required to spend it all." 

Marc Zawatsky, the other co-chairman for the building committee, told council members much work is being done to locate cost efficiencies within the project. He also said officials will be looking at "value engineering" in the near future — value engineering is reportedly the process where lower cost items can be subbed in for other more expensive materials in order to save money. 

The debt service on the bond will reportedly cost taxpayers about $3 million annually. Officials said that if the 4 percent cap were in place, the town could only increase its budget about $2.4 million from its current total. That would not include contracted raises for municipal and school department employees and other increases. 

Kathy Raposa, the town's finance director, said taxpayers would likely see a $5 million total increase over the current year's budget. 

School officials said that the project needed to move forward quickly, adding that interest rates and building costs could climb in the near future. 

Before voting to approve the resolution, Mr. Boyajian suggested a slight change to the language. He asked that a provision be included to state that the council approved the project and its financing as long as the state allowed the town to exceed the 4 percent tax cap. 

School officials balked a bit on the change — the school department's finance director Ron Tarro said the change was "a curveball." The town solicitor, Andy Teitz, replied that it was a hittable curveball. 

In the end the motion passed 5-0. 

A few minutes later, the council approved exceeding the 4 percent tax cap. Council member Peter Dennehy voted to approve the motion, although he did so "reluctantly."

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