On Nov. 7, the voters of Winslow will be asked to approve a $10.33 million school renovation project. Although well-intentioned, this proposal does not take into account the fiscal and budgetary realities that Winslow faces.

The renovation plan the taxpayers are being asked to accept started as a modest $3 million estimate to retrofit the existing junior high school, evolved into a reasonable $5 million addition of classrooms to the high school, then morphed into an $8 million plan that included finishing the auxiliary gym at the high school, and finally emerged as a bloated, nearly $14 million plan — including interest — that includes every architectural bell and whistle imaginable.

There is no excuse for such architectural gluttony. The taxpayers of Winslow deserve a reasonable, responsible renovation plan. The plan being foisted upon them is neither responsible nor reasonable.

Winslow’s school superintendent, Eric Haley, has correctly identified the perilous budgetary situation we are now in and have been in for some time. He accurately points out that schools are being asked to provide more and more services each year with less and less money. It makes little sense to embrace nearly $14 million in local debt — with interest — when faced with these fiscal and budgetary restraints. Haley has done a tremendous job of keeping the budget balanced. This risky renovation plan will not make his job easier — in fact, it will make it much more difficult for years to come due to the constraints this large amount of long-term debt will place on current and future educational spending.

The renovation plan calls for a $3.3 million performing arts center. This would be a wonderful addition to our community if we could afford it and had the tax base to support it. Unfortunately, we have neither. This single facet of the renovation plan will cost (conservatively) upwards of $40,000 a year in administrative costs, maintenance expenses and supplies. These costs do not even factor in the debt and interest on the construction. These are costs that we should not absorb now and certainly cannot absorb into the foreseeable future, particularly given the fact that we have a fully functional performing arts center already operating at the high school.

Finally, if the voters do approve this risky plan, the Town Council has made it clear that they are very committed to holding the line on tax revenues. Since the council is not willing to raise taxes, it is fair to ask where the money will come from to pay the nearly $14 million dollars in debt Winslow will incur. It is not hard to imagine teachers’ salaries stagnating, fewer police patrols and the end of weekly trash pickup service. The money for this enormous debt will have to come from somewhere — it will either come in increased taxes or reduced services.

At the Town Council meeting that approved sending the performing arts center bond to the voters, Councilors Jerry Quirion, Ken Fletcher, and Benjamin Twitchell voted to put on the ballot a bond that would have amounted to less than $8 million. Although this would have been a sensible and equitable compromise, supporters of the performing arts center made it clear that, for them, there was no compromise. It was the PAC bond or nothing. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and, if the PAC bond is defeated, the full council has made clear that they will pass a more judicious and cost-effective solution to our school problems, and that they will do so in a timely manner.

There is no question that the plan being presented to the voters is well-intentioned. There is also no question that it is fiscally irresponsible and not suitable for the residents of Winslow. We need to go back to the drawing board, learn how much the Town Council is willing to spend, and from there, develop a reasonable, responsible renovation plan to address the educational needs of the children of Winslow.

I would urge the voters of Winslow to vote no on the PAC bond as currently constituted, and let the Town Council take the lead on devising a new plan moving forward that is reasonable and responsible.

Phil St. Onge lives in Winslow.

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