Following a two-hour emergency meeting of the Rockport Select Board June 5, and a long conversation with School Administrative District 28 board members Carole Gartley and Pete Orne, as well as SAD 28 Finance Director Cathy Murphy, the Rockport Select Board voted 3 to 1 to issue the following letter concerning the financing of the $26 million project. Voting in favor were Doug Cole, Owen Casas and Mark Kelley. Opposing was Ken McKinley, who said his concerns were based primarily on the fact that public schools are running under a different governmental entity than municipal business.
Hello Camden and Rockport Residents,
At a special MSAD 28 District meeting on June 11, we will have decisions to make regarding the future of our middle school and impact to taxpayers. One of those decisions is how to best deal with the new middle school project that recently came back from bid 26 percent ($5.8 million) over budget. Regardless of how individual members of the Rockport Select Board voted on the original bond, all of us support a robust educational experience for the youth in our community.
The proposed changes include:
A ‘bond premium’ of up to $3 million: This function comes with higher interest rates, at taxpayer expense. Over the life of the bond, (21 years) these additional interest payments could exceed $1 million.
Deferment of the first principal payment: This will take the first principal payment of $1.3 million and use those funds toward construction rather than paying down the debt. This will also extend the 20 year bond by an additional year.
Draw down the Capital Reserve Fund: This $1.4 million is already appropriated for issues that might arise with BOTH the Middle and Elementary Schools. Some funds ($1.1 million) in this Reserve were put aside specifically for the Middle School project over the last three years by deferring some maintenance. The remaining $300,000 is for unforeseen issues and expenses, not new construction. If the full amount is approved and spent on the Middle School project, only $175k will remain in the fund, an amount that the MSAD 28 Business Manager has stated is “a concern” and has advised the school board to take this into consideration when determining the correct use of value engineering and other funding sources.
Fund Balance: These are non-expended funds from previous budgets that can either be used to reduce taxes or be designated for other projects. Rather than use these funds for either of these purposes, The District plans to expend a portion of these funds ($100k) toward the Middle School construction.
Value Engineering: This is a term for finding non-essential aspects of the project and cutting them out to reduce the overall cost of construction. Although a possible cut of $2.8 million has been discussed, the actual amount may be less.
Any individual aspect of this package, taken by itself, might be considered “common.” That said,bundling these aspects together, especially to the degree of which is being proposed, could be considered uncommon. When taken as a whole, this overall proposal could place an additional burden on our taxpayers. This is in addition to the burden we have assumed by passing a bond of $25.2 million for new school construction.
All of us want to see a successful and positive resolution to the situation we find ourselves in. Some of us on the Select Board have young children in the school district that will be the first class to use the new school; however, we feel that the approach that the District has taken to resolve this issue is complicated.
We encourage all voters in Camden and Rockport to review the discussions had by the School Board and the Select Board so they can make up their own minds and join us for the District meeting and vote on June 11 at 6 p.m. in the Camden Rockport Middle School gymnasium.
Below are links to the recent news articles and school board meetings where these aspects are discussed more thoroughly. We appreciate that the District has been extremely transparent in their approach.
May 21, 2018 – School board met to discuss options moving forward
May 29, 2018 – Carole Gartley and Cathy Murphy present changes to the Middle School Project to Rockport Select Board (discussion starts at minute 52): https://livestream.com/Rockportmaine/events/8200758
May 30, 2018 – School Board discusses special June 11 District Budget meeting https://youtu.be/FY5AEwun5F8
June 5, 2018 – Rockport Select Board and School Board Representatives
Select Board Meeting/Middle School Project