WINSLOW — Town residents Wednesday will have the chance to ask questions about the contentious $8.1 million school renovation bond that will appear on the June 12 ballot at a public forum being held by school officials.

The forum will take place at 7 p.m. in the Winslow High School auditorium. School officials will present the plans for the town’s schools if voters approve the bond on election day. Those in attendance will be able to ask questions following the presentation.

The project in question would close the junior high and expand and renovate the elementary and high schools to accommodate the displaced students. The plan also includes a new 415-seat auditorium, a cafeteria expansion and extending the auxiliary gymnasium to a full court at the high school.

If the bond passes and the town pays the debt over a 20-year term with an interest rate of 3 percent, the average annual debt service payment will be at least $532,575, according to Councilor Ken Fletcher. Barring any other changes, this would increase the tax rate by $0.83 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, raising taxes by an average of $121 per year for the median household.

School Board Chairman Joel Selwood, however, has said this calculation is not accurate as it does not include the estimated savings — or cost avoidance — of closing the junior high and debt that the town will be retiring in the coming years, which would total around $423,000 a year, or 79 percent of the annual bond payment.

School administrators and school board members were recently forced to alter the $8.6 million plan that the building committee had originally drafted when the Town Council voted to shave off $565,000 from the project’s budget.

Stephen Blatt, the architect on the project, said he was able to “take a chomp” out of each part of the project in order to maintain the same footprint as the original design but without the bells and whistles.

Both the School Board and building committee have voted to endorse the $8.1 million plan following the revision to the project.

While the Town Council voted to send the $8.1 million to voters, they also passed a resolution that the bond ought not to pass in a vote of 4-3. The councilors opposed to the bond stated that the payment would be too much of a burden on taxpayers, and the building committee did not comply with their request to come up with a plan that totaled $7.83 million.

Eric Haley, the superintendent of Alternative Organizational Unit 92, has since pointed out that the difference in the annual average payments between the $8.1 million and the council’s proposed figure of $7.83 million would be a little more than $16,000. He added that the yearly average increase in maintenance expenses at the junior high is also about $16,000.

Selwood added that the median homeowner in Winslow would pay just $3.78 more a year in property taxes for the $8.1 million project than they would for the $7.83 million figure.

The polls will be open for the school renovation bond from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at Winslow VFW Banquet and Conference Center on 175 Veteran Drive.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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