A proposed debt exclusion would fund $4.1 million in repairs for Hawthorne Brook Middle School. Squannacook Early  Childhood Center would see updates to
A proposed debt exclusion would fund $4.1 million in repairs for Hawthorne Brook Middle School. Squannacook Early Childhood Center would see updates to the building's roof, siding, heating system and interior if towns pass a debt exclusion this month. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN

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This week and next voters will weigh in on three proposed debt exclusions that, if passed, would fund $17.7 million in repairs to three schools in North Middlesex Regional School District.

Elections will be held on Tuesday from noon to 7:30 p.m. in Ashby Elementary School. Townsend will hold elections the next week, July 18, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

Pepperell, the third town in the district, approved the ballot questions during an election last month.

All three towns must pass the debt exclusions for the project to move forward, according to the district.

If approved, the debt exclusions will fund a portion of repairs to Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend, Varnum Brook Elementary School in Pepperell and Squannacook Early Childhood Center in Townsend. The remainder will be funded by insurance proceeds and grants from the Massachusetts School Building Authority through the Accelerated Repair Program.

North Middlesex Business Manager Nancy Haines wrote in an email that the school plans to finance the projects over 25 years.

If all three are approved, Ashby homeowners would pay $18.37 more annually per $100,000 of home valuation and Townsend residents would pay an additional $23.86.

The owner of a $100,000 house in Ashby would pay a maximum of $13.37 in taxes annually to fund the $4.1 million in repairs to the middle school.

The same homeowner would pay a smaller portion of the $9 million in repairs to Varnum Brook Elementary School, $1.15 annually, and the $4.


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5 million in repairs to Squannacook Early Childhood Center, $3.85 annually.

The owner of a $100,000 house in Townsend would pay $14.73 annually for the middle school repairs, $8.25 annually for the early childhood center repairs and $0.88 annually for the elementary school repairs.

At a May town meeting in Ashby, residents raised concerns about paying for renovations for buildings outside the town.

According to an explanation posted by North Middlesex, the regional agreement requires capital costs to be paid by member towns depending on the number of students from each town enrolled in classes in the building.

"Due to districtwide specialized programs developed to service our students, there are students from all towns in all schools," the statement from the district read.

The project will address "real and immediate" repairs and replacements of roofs, windows, doors and boilers at the schools, according to the district. Many of these components are original to the buildings and haven't been replaced since the late-1970s or '80s.

"The grant funding money is guaranteed if we approve the projects now," a release from the district said. "If the communities reject the funding, the district does not know when the projects may get chosen for funding again."

The upgrades will be "energy efficient" and the district will see $200,000 in operational savings from downsizing, Haines wrote in an email.

If passed construction will start this winter at Squannacook and the summer of 2018 for the other two schools, she said.

Currently the district does not have a "mechanism to save for major projects" and the amount of town money the district can hold onto is capped at just over $2 million, necessitating a debt exclusion, according to the district.

The listed tax hikes represent the highest possible amount taxpayers will pay and these numbers could be less if the project comes in under budget.

In 2014, voters in the district's three towns approved a debt exclusion to fund the $89 million construction of a new high school.

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