WINSLOW — About 70 people attended a meeting Tuesday evening to ask questions about a proposed $10.33 million bond that would finance renovation and expansion at the town’s high school and elementary school for a planned consolidation project.

Voters will decide whether to approve the bond in a Nov. 7 referendum.

The town and the school board both have voted to close Winslow Junior High School by 2019. The school building, built in 1928, poses a hazard to students and would cost millions more to fix than consolidating the school system would.

Stephen Blatt, who runs Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland, designed the school renovation projects. Among other things, his plan would add 13 classrooms to the high school and a 600-seat performing arts center, as well $400,000 worth of renovations at the elementary school.

If the bond passes and the town pays the debt over 20 years at 3 percent interest, the average annual debt payment would be about $687,000, according to Councilor Ken Fletcher. Barring any other changes, this would increase the tax rate by $1.08 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. This would be an increase of $148 for the average Winslow household, he said.

At the same time, consolidation should result in nearly $250,000 in annual savings for the school system.

“If we’re going to protect our citizens, we buy a police cruiser,” Councilor Raymond Caron said. “… Here we are asking, please help us educate our kids. It’s an infrastructure; it’s something that’s needed to educate our kids. I think it’s in the range that would educate our kids in the proper manner.”

After a brief presentation, residents passed written questions to Councilor Ben Twitchell and Jenn McCowan, a drama and English teacher, who read them for the councilors and school board members to respond.

Most questions focused on costs and the proposed performing arts center.

One person asked why the renovation costs increased over time.

Schools Superintendent Eric Haley said Blatt presented different concepts to the school building committee. The first was a basic concept for just over $5 million, with no performing arts center or cafeteria renovations. As the concept changed, not only construction cost would increase, but also fee, services and administrative costs, Haley said.

Eventually, the committee added a cafeteria renovation to help the school sell more lunches and ease the nutrition deficit, as well as a performing arts center, as the current auditorium in the high school would be too small for the events put on by the schools. The demolition cost also was added.

Another person asked a number of questions about the performing arts center, including what staff would be hired to manage it. High school Principal Chad Bell said they wouldn’t hire anyone, and that current drama and arts directors would run the space.

McCowan said 73 students take drama classes each year and about 75 participate after school in drama extracurricular activities.

One person wrote that the elementary school renovation did not seem necessary. Principal Kyle Price said that the renovation would improve safety by moving the front office, but that if the bond were rejected, he would cut that first.

“You won’t do it any cheaper than you will now,” he said.

One asked if three of the councilors who approved the bond — Trish West, Steven Russell and Raymond Caron — would support a $7 million bond without the performing arts center.

Caron said that if voters reject the bond, he would “go back in and try to find another solution to the problem.”

West, who was on the building committee along with Caron, voted yes to give residents a voice, she said.

“I voted yes for this because it’s not up to the seven dictators of Winslow. It’s up to the townspeople,” she said, adding that if other councilors wanted to cap the budget at $7 million, they should have told the committee.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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