TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee unanimously approved warrant articles to be sent to the Boards of Selectmen in Ashby, Pepperell and Townsend in a meeting Monday night, according to Building Committee Chairman Robert Templeton.
The first warrant article would appropriate $89,084,977 for the building project, which would pay for the construction of a new school on the same property at 19 Main St.
In addition to the high school building project itself, two other alternates will go before voters. One is an $800,000 maintenance building that would provide storage and work space for the vehicles that keep all of the district's schools functioning. The second alternate includes upgrades to the track and athletic fields for $2.7 million. This includes preparing the football field for the possibility of the grass being replaced with turf in the future and an expansion of the track.
Both alternates would only go forward if the warrant articles pass at Special Town Meetings in each of the three member towns, and if in the bidding process the building committee is able to secure enough savings on the project to fund the alternates without going over budget.
"We want to make sure people understand what's included with the high school project and how the educational benefits of that project will impact students for the next 50 years," Templeton said.
He said the School Committee also discussed the tax impact on residents of each member town if the project were to pass.
Of the total $89 million project cost, about $48 million will be the responsibility of the three towns, with Pepperell paying about 50 percent, Townsend paying about 28 percent and Ashby paying about 12 percent, Templeton said. The rest of the cost will be paid by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The tax impact would be similar across the three towns, with residents of Pepperell paying $142 per $100,000 of valuation, Ashby residents paying $143 per $100,000 valuation and Townsend tax bills increasing by $159 per $100,000 valuation, Templeton said.
A partial impact of the new taxes will be seen on tax bills in 2017, with the full amount not going into effect until 2018. Town Meetings will be held on March 10 in Pepperell, March 11 in Townsend and March 15 in Ashby to vote on the project, as well as the two alternates.
The project must pass all three town meetings by a two-thirds majority vote, and a debt exclusion must also pass in all three towns' annual town elections.
Templeton said that although both alternates have value, his priority is seeing the high school project pass.
"The first priority of this building project and this building committee is a new high school, and if the voters choose to not support a maintenance facility, that's something that the School Committee will have to deal with. The first priority is supporting a new building," Templeton said.
The School Committee will be developing a back-up plan of how to provide for the upkeep of the district's buildings if a maintenance building is not approved, but did not discuss any progress on that plan at Monday's meeting, Templeton said.
"If the voters vote no, the maintenance can still be done with the existing school until they build the new school," he said.
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