Letter to the Editor: Mount Abe project is too expensive for residents

This Thursday — Nov. 2 — is the day for voters in Bristol, New Haven, Lincoln, Starksboro and Monkton to decide on the so-called $35 million high school bond issue. The actual cost of the project, including interest, is in excess of $52 million according to the superintendent — closer to $60 million according to their fact sheet.
Please consider these facts before voting: The actual amount proposed to be spent is already more than $36,600,000. The first $1.6 million they are spending of your tax dollars from money they are already holding. You will pay, on top of that, more than $20 million of interest over 30 years.
By not counting the $1 million per year of your money they slid into this year’s budget and not spent, they claim the tax impact of the bond is only $87 per $100,000 of assessment. That is not true. They are proposing to spend the unused $1 million plus much more every year to pay for the bond. The actual impact of approving this vote will be about $180 per year for each $100,000 of assessment.
In real dollars, if your home is assessed at $400,000 this will cost you $720 more per year for 30 years.
The presentation reluctantly admitted that school attendance in that school is shrinking, has been shrinking for years, and will continue to decline. By their admission, student population went from 711 to 666 in just three years.
Why then, do we need to add significant square footage in the form of a second gymnasium when the number of students significantly drops? Their answer was to accommodate other public events. I asked them to name three — they said (1) the Boy Scouts (2), families who want to have private birthday parties (2) and they never did name a third. Spending over $55 million including interest for private birthday parties is certainly not a reason to support this. When you consider the architect alone will profit from $3 million in fees, you see unnecessary expenses throughout.
There are certainly less expensive alternatives than this. When you further consider that the state education fund has an $80 million hole in it that must be filled with your tax dollars, right there alone you are looking at a $120 tax increase for each $100,000 of assessment — $480 more for that $400,000 property. That is before any payments for the bond or any other school budget increases — raises, benefits, etc.
This state is already unaffordable. That school is too expensive. Raising property taxes in the five towns to pay for this dream will make it impossible to sell or keep your home. Renters will be required to pay more to cover this expense. This unrealistic dream must be defeated on Thursday and we could then support a much smaller maintenance plan to replace it.
Doug Tolles, New Haven

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