Lincoln bond vote preview set

LINCOLN — At 7 p.m. Thursday in the Lincoln Community School (LCS) multipurpose room, members of the LCS Building Committee will present its $2 million bond proposal to town residents before the bond goes to a vote on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Should the bond be approved, Lincoln residents will see an increase in their taxes for the next 20 years.
Prior to the Jan. 13 meeting, the building committee and architects from Black River Design in Montpelier held a public information meeting to go over the new plan that, if approved, will address the following building, site and educational needs:
Repair and replacement of mechanical systems, including heating and ventilation.
Repair and replacement of the building’s envelope, including siding, roof, windows and doors.
Replacement of the temporary “caboose” space.
Improvement of traffic flow and the parking lot.
Centralization of all special services for struggling students.
New classroom spaces for third- and fourth-grade classes to provide more adequate space and light.
According to a Jan. 5 press release, School Board Chairman David Venman said “the final plan is limited to repairs and upgrades necessary to ensure the safety, structural integrity and cost-effective maintenance of the building.”
In September, State Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca rejected the board’s bond proposal in an effort to discourage any new construction at public schools around the state. After the board submitted its revised proposal earlier this fall, Vilaseca agreed to approve $1.6 million of the proposed changes and repairs, excluding the replacement of the “Caboose,” or temporary trailer currently being used for classroom space at the rear of the school building.  Despite his recommendation, members of the Building Committee have decided to go forward with replacing the “Caboose.”
The board is still allowed to move forward with its new plan, even though it will exceed the commissioner’s suggested $1.6 million mark. The additional costs will not be excluded from the amount that counts toward a school becoming a “gold town” — a designation that requires schools with per-pupil spending above a certain threshold to pay a penalty to the state.
To fund the renovations, which would likely begin in June and take nine to 11 months to complete, board members hope to tack the LCS onto a Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) that another school in the state has already put in a bid for, which would save around $75,000 in purchase cost.
The QSCB bond would lock Lincoln residents into a 19-year payment cycle, and the payments would remain the same each year. Interest rates on a QSCB currently range from 0.8 to 1.5 percent, according to Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Business Manager Greg Burdick, which he compared to the current 3.9-percent interest rate on a normal bond. But with a normal bond, he explained, the payment goes down each year.
Ultimately, the decision to bond or not to bond lies with the town, though according to LCS Principal Tory Riley, without the renovations, the school will be repaired on an as-needed basis, which could result in the expenditure of even more money over the next several years.
School board members hope that Lincoln residents will come to the 7 p.m. meeting with any questions and concerns they might have prior to the Jan. 18 vote.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we are confident this final proposal addresses the concerns voiced by all parties,” Venman said in the Jan. 5 press release. “It is important for residents to know the details and to have their questions answered prior to being asked to vote.”
Tamara Hilmes is at [email protected]

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