Wakefield will be able to move forward with construction of a new high school after voters on March 11 approved a tax increase for the project.
By a margin of 3,427 to 1,431, voters at a special election adopted a debt exclusion — a property tax increase that will be in effect from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2058.
Depending on interest rates, the debt exclusion will add $1,200 to $1,400 to the annual property tax bill of an average home valued at about $700,000, according to Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio, who added that the impact may be eased for senior homeowners who participate in the town’s tax discount program.
A total of 4,858, or 25 percent of the town’s 19,455 registered voters, cast ballots. A Special Town Meeting Jan. 28 authorized the town to borrow and spend $273.25 million for the project, subject to passage of the tax measure at the recent election.
The remaining $2 million of the overall $275.25 million project cost had been authorized by a previous town meeting. The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to reimburse the town for up to $67.25 million of project costs, according to Town Treasurer John J. McCarthy Jr.
“The school community is very grateful to the taxpayers and voters for such a strong show of support in Saturday’s special election to build a new high school,” said committee chair Tom Markham. “With 71 percent of the voters supporting a new high school, Wakefield has cemented a strong foundation for quality teaching and learning in a modern, competitive, and sound school building that will serve the students and families for years to come. Thanks to all who helped make this project come together.”
The plan calls for locating the new building on the site of the athletic fields and track at the rear of the existing high school. School officials have said the existing school building suffers from deficiencies such as a lack of thermal insulation in the exterior walls; poor ventilation and air quality; outdated electrical and fire alarm systems; outdated plumbing; and inadequate handicap access.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the region’s accrediting agency, has placed the school on probation due to the outdated condition of its math and science classrooms and labs.
Wakefield Memorial High School was originally built as a junior high school in 1960.
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.