By Curt Peterson
Windsor Central school district voters will be asked to approve integrating $1.65 million to cover next steps in building a new middle school/high school complex into the district’s budget at March 2023 Town Meetings in seven towns, to be spread out over five years.
Board member Ben Ford of Woodstock and Finance and Operations Director Jim Fenn told the board the budget could absorb the addition without an adverse effect on the projected tax rate, even though the district lost students since last year.
Architect Leigh Sherwood said the funds will cover the design and development planning stage for the new building.
The board hopes to propose a bond for the remaining construction cost, less any private funding, in March 2024.
Previously the board had discussed floating a bond for the design and development and permitting costs, but Fenn explained doing so would stretch payments out six years and cost taxpayers more than budgeting.
“Putting the expense in the budget is a better fiscal decision,” he said.
The $1.65 million expense will be a separate article in the warning so voters will have the same choice they would have if the funds were bonded.
In addition, Ford explained, for a bond to be approved a supermajority of voters would have to vote in favor of the bond, whereas a budgeted expense requires only a simple majority. This reduces the risk of the measure failing to pass.
A majority would be any percentage above 50%, however, a supermajority stipulates a higher percentage, usually between 67% and 90%.
At an earlier meeting one board member suggested proposing a bond funding the entire estimated construction cost of the new building — approximately $60 million to $70 million — at the 2023 Town Meeting. Sherwood said there was insufficient time to pursue that route.
Sherwood also suggested hiring a construction manager early to organize and execute the project pre-construction through the final product. That would cost $100,000 to $150,000 he estimated, but would be well worth the investment.
Fenn explained the district realized a surplus of almost $1 million as a result of the FY2022 audit, which allows budgeting the new build expenses and performing some much-needed maintenance and repairs on existing campuses without a noticeable raise in the local tax rate.