August 5, 2022
Dear BSD families, staff, and community,
I hope summer has provided a chance to connect with friends and family and enjoy some downtime. In BSD, we have been busy operating a number of amazing summer programs while planning to welcome students back to school for our first day on August 31st!
We have also been working hard to ensure the BHS/BTC 2025 project moves forward and remains on schedule. On Tuesday I received the most recent cost estimate for the project which I shared at the school board meeting that day. Independent cost estimators have set our total project cost at about $190,000,000, including construction costs ($138,658,000), project soft costs ($30,030,000), and environmental costs to demolish and remove the old buildings and remediate the land left behind (about $21,000,000). I am happy to say this number is down $20m since the Spring when the School Board accepted my recommendation to relocate a portion of our Technical Center programs to the building we are planning at the airport (which is being funded through support from Senator Leahy).
The good news is that we will not need to bond for the entire $190m. As of today, we have identified $25m of District resources that we can put towards this project cost. This includes utilizing $10m of American Recovery Act funds (ESSER), $5m in budget savings and surpluses over five years, and $10m from our ten-year capital plan. All told, we are currently expecting to request City Council approval for a bond of $165m or less. It’s important to note though that this number could come down next week as the School Board considers keeping our alternative high school programs (Horizons and OnTop) in their current locations, which are serving staff and students well.
As we work to finalize the number, there are two things to keep in mind about how the bond will impact taxes. The first is that we are committed to continuing to fundraise throughout this project. We are exploring every State and Federal funding source open to us and we have applied for several grants and earmarks already. We have also partnered with the Burlington Student’s Foundation to allow us to apply for private grants and private donations and we are excited to announce that those who are interested in helping us build this beautiful school can donate now.
The second thing to keep in mind is that your Burlington Board of School Commissioners spent the last several years advocating for a change in Vermont’s school funding formula which will more equitably fund Burlington schools. The most recent State analysis is that this change in the funding formula could result in a tax decrease for residents, and we estimate this will help us reduce the tax impact substantially and improve services to students.
That said, our current estimate, not including the anticipated offset from the updated pupil weighting formula, is that when fully borrowed, a $165m bond could have a tax impact of 15.67%. For those paying based on the value of a $370,000 home, this could mean an increase of about $800 a year (see the charts in the estimate for rates related to other homesite values); for those paying based on income sensitivity ($50,000), it could mean an increase of $190 a year. Again, we will do our best to lower those numbers, but I wanted you to have a sense of where we are today.
As we move forward, the next few weeks will be critical to keeping this project on track. The School Board is scheduled to make a final bond decision at a special board meeting Wednesday, August 10th at 6 PM. The meeting will be offered both in person at Hunt Middle School and virtually via Zoom, and we welcome your feedback and engagement. Following the Board Meeting, City Council is scheduled to vote on our final bond amount on Monday, August 15th and if that passes, our bond will be placed on the November ballot!
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the project, want to learn more about donating, or want to help get involved with spreading the word about the project and supporting a bond, please visit our website. As always, you are also welcome to reach out to me directly.