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Payment options mulled for Salem High School renovation

SALEM — When it comes to the proposed comprehensive renovation plan for Salem High School, Superintendent Michael Delahanty is clear that there is no final cost or timeline in place yet for the project.

The plan is scheduled to come before voters next March.

However, at a recent School Board meeting, Delahanty began outlining several options for how the district will go about paying for the project.

During the informal presentation to the board, Delahanty worked with a total budget for the project of $75 million, a baseline number the administration has used in the past. Delahanty did note that the $75 million is not a firm number and that there are a number of factors that will impact the final cost.

“The variables can impact how we approach this project, and there are a number of variables,” Delahanty said. “They are all going to have to be considered, but I’m optimistic that this is a project that can be done at a reasonable cost.”

If the project does garner voter support, Delahanty said one of the big decisions will revolve around how the project is bonded and phased.

Potential options include bonding and phasing the project over three or four years, with the district bonding each individual phase.

Further, Delahanty said, the district could move ahead with a relatively small bond of $6 million to $8 million for the first year of the project to get the renovations moving or it could more evenly divide the cost over three years with a larger bond issue in the first year.

“The financing really depends on how this project is phased, because this is really a complex facility,” he said.

“It’s not going to be done all at once. The length of the project will in no small part determine the costs.”

In the near term, Delahanty said the district hopes to hire a construction manager, a move that will help further determine the phasing and cost of the project.

If the project is supported in March, Delahanty said the construction manager would then begin working on the detailed construction documents for the project.

“This will give us a sense of what needs to be constructed, what needs to be demolished, what needs to be renovated and what the timeline can be to ensure the most efficient process,” said Delahanty.

Also factored into the project cost is the fact that there is state money available to help fund renovations for the school’s career and technical education program.

Delahanty said there are positives and negatives for spreading out the construction costs over four separate bond issues.

“The upside is that it spreads the costs out for the taxpayers and minimizes the burden the taxpayer will feel,” he said. On the other hand, Delahanty said there could be increased construction costs if the project is extended out too far.

Using ballpark numbers for the project cost, School Board member Peter Morgan said that the greatest impact on taxpayers would be in the fourth year of the project, when the property tax on a $300,000 home would increase by $24 per month. From that point, due in part to other school bonds being paid off, the tax burden would begin to decrease.

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