February 5, 2023
Burlington voters overwhelmingly approve 5 million bond for a brand new highschool
Burlington voters overwhelmingly approve 5 million bond for a brand new highschool
In accordance with unofficial outcomes from seven of town’s eight wards, 72% of voters authorized a poll measure to borrow for the development of a brand new highschool. The outdated constructing was closed after the invention of PCB contamination. File photograph by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Up to date at 10:37 p.m.

Voters in Burlington authorized a $165 million bond measure on Tuesday by a big margin, permitting building of a brand new highschool to start. 

In accordance with preliminary outcomes from town’s eight wards, 76% of voters backed the poll measure. 

Burlington superintendent Tom Flanagan referred to as the result “an actual clear signal for us that we’re doing the best work.” Regardless of the resounding victory, Flanagan mentioned that district officers “need to work on bringing that price down.”

The Burlington Faculty District touted the bond vote as important to constructing a everlasting house for Burlington Excessive Faculty on Institute Street. 

However with tax implications displaying that property house owners and residents might be paying off the borrowed cash till the 12 months 2046, some within the metropolis balked on the tax burden.

Flanagan mentioned the district plans to place out a request for quotes to subcontractors Wednesday, and he expects demolition to start by January. 

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger referred to as the vote outcomes “decisive.” 

“I feel the truth that this vote came about amid actually unsure monetary instances actually speaks to how strongly Burlingtonians consider in training and what a terrific job the college district did on addressing all of the questions that there have been about this vote,” Weinberger mentioned in an interview.

Weinberger additionally mentioned town will now must work to “make good on the dedication we made to voters to do every thing we will over the following three years because the challenge’s being designed and constructed to carry down the price of the challenge.”

The $165 million bond pays for almost all of the brand new highschool challenge, estimated to price a complete of round $190 million. A breakdown of estimated challenge prices shared by the college district outlined $134 million in building bills, $34 million in different challenge prices and $21 million for environmental remediation.

Faculty board chair Clare Wool thanked voters Tuesday night time and mentioned, “My dedication to the residents of Burlington tonight is that we can’t shoulder this burden alone. And we wish to our state leaders and our governor to pay for this poisonous cleanup and to assist us.” In a press release, she referred to as on the state to provide $32 million that has been earmarked for such initiatives. “We’re the one college that has been shut down by the state well being division and we’d like the state’s assist,” Wool mentioned.

At a South Finish polling place on Tuesday, Andrew Jope, 53, mentioned it wasn’t a great time to construct a brand new highschool, given excessive building prices. Even so, Jope, who works in training, voted for the bond. College students have “achieved a terrific job adjusting to the state of affairs and so they’re making the very best of it. However, , we’d like a everlasting highschool,” he mentioned. “I share issues about the price, however there’s simply no method round that. We have now to construct it.”

Voters beforehand authorized a $70 million bond to renovate the highschool constructing in 2018. Environmental exams achieved through the planning course of for that challenge revealed ranges of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a hazardous chemical, that exceeded EPA limits.

Faculty officers closed the college in 2020, and the district returned or didn’t find yourself borrowing a lot of the 2018 bond consequently. Since then, college students have been taking lessons within the vacant former Macy’s constructing downtown.

The lease on the former division retailer is ready to run out in 2025, a truth district officers used to induce voters to move the bond. Nonetheless, the constructing’s proprietor, developer Don Sinex, mentioned he would “think about” an extension if the college wasn’t constructed and college students had nowhere else to go. 

The tax implications shared by the college district assume it is going to borrow the total bond quantity. However in interviews main as much as the vote, district officers sought to attract consideration to their efforts to cut back the borrowed quantity.

Wool mentioned the district has pursued 17 completely different funding choices, from state and federal grants to non-public philanthropy, she mentioned.

“Each time we’re profitable in elevating funds it means we decrease the burden this challenge has on taxpayers,” Wool mentioned throughout a press convention.

At that Oct.13 convention, held in entrance of the empty highschool, officers introduced that the district was planning to sue Monsanto over damages brought on by PCB contamination. 

Wool on the time advised {that a} profitable lawsuit may assist to pay the debt from setting up a brand new college. 

“Any cash recovered from litigation could be used to pay down the bond in future years and scale back the quantity taxpayers could be required to pay on debt,” Wool mentioned.

Previous to the district’s announcement of the lawsuit, two former highschool educators filed a swimsuit of their very own in opposition to Monsanto over the contaminated constructing.

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