West

Make-or-break vote for a new Minuteman High School

A rendering of the proposed new Minuteman High School.

Kaestle Boos Associates

A rendering of the proposed new Minuteman High School.

The fate of a new school for the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School district will be decided by voters in 16 communities on Tuesday.

Residents in Acton, Arlington, Belmont, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Dover, Lancaster, Lexington, Lincoln, Needham, Stow, Sudbury, Wayland, Weston will head to the polls between noon and 8 p.m. to vote on a plan to borrow funds for a new $145 million Minuteman High School.

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The Massachusetts School Building Authority has committed $44 million toward the project as long as the towns vote by Nov. 30 to support the local share. Votes in all communities will be added together to determine the outcome.

Minuteman Superintendent Edward Bouquillon said the 40-year-old building in Lexington is in need of major repairs and reconfiguration to support Minuteman’s new programs, desire to create an academy structure, and ability to properly educate and train the Commonwealth’s future workforce.

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The new structure calls for better integration of technical and academic curriculum with advanced placement and college level courses and dual enrollment, he said.

“We need a school in this region like Minuteman that really supports the innovative economy of the region,’’ Bouquillon said. “We teach the heart and soul, which are the trades, but we also prepare students for careers in robotics, engineering, environmental technology. We have a very well-balanced curriculum that provides training for college and career.’’

But opponents say the cost of attending Minuteman is already too expensive and will only be more so once a new building is constructed.

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Belmont resident Ralph Jones, who is the chairman of a group urging residents to vote against the project, said there are too many unanswered questions about the cost and size of the building.

“We have to face the fact that the Minuteman district is broken. It doesn’t work,’’ said Jones, who has served on the town’s School Committee, Finance Committee, and Board of Selectmen. “As far as we’re concerned, this is about debt — it’s not a not about vocational education.’’

According to figures provided by Minuteman, the new school will cost homeowners in the district anywhere from $25 a year for 30 years to $117. The average cost for Belmont homeowners is projected to be $33 a year, but Jones said the numbers are not set in stone.

Jones said the cost is based on a significant enrollment increase and an assumption that nonmember communities would pay some capital costs.

“If you vote ‘yes’ on this, you’re voting for a debt that could be huge, much larger than anything talked about,’’ Jones said. “We don’t know how high it could go and for a town like ours that has no commercial tax base, that’s a lot of money out of our budget.’’

Minuteman attempted to win support for the project at individual town meetings in the spring but Belmont turned it town.

Under Minuteman’s town meeting approval process, the project could only move forward if there was unanimous approval.

Minuteman’s next step was to call for the districtwide vote.

If a majority of voters support the new school, Bouquillon said construction would start next spring and students would likely be in the new building in the fall of 2020.

Boxborough, Carlisle, Lincoln, Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston voted earlier this year to withdraw from the Minuteman district as of July 1, 2017, but residents in those communities will still vote Tuesday.

If the funding is not approved Tuesday, the state grant will likely be rescinded, said Bouquillon.

And if the district loses state funding, Bouquillon said residents will still have to foot the bill for necessary renovations, which he said could cost up to $100 million.

“We’d be spending the same amount of money to repair this as we would to build a new one,’’ he said.

Even though the votes will be added together to determine the final outcome, any town that votes against the project will have an opportunity to withdraw from the district and not be forced to pay for the new building.

Any town in which the majority of voters rejects the borrowing can withdraw from the district by a two-thirds vote at a town meeting within 60 days of the districtwide vote.

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Voters in the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District will go to the polls Tuesday, Sept. 20, to decide whether to borrow funds to pay for a new $144 million high school. Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Votes from each community will be added together. Boxborough, Carlisle, Lincoln, Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston have voted to withdraw from the district as of July 2017. While they are not responsible for funding the building project, they are still allowed to vote in the election.

Below are the number of registered voters in each community.

Acton 14,941

Arlington 31,246

Belmont 17,481

Bolton 3,716

Boxborough 3,595

Carlisle 3,903

Concord 13,053

Dover 4,172

Lancaster 4,972

Lexington 21,568

Lincoln 4,621

Needham 21,466

Stow 5,056

Sudbury 12,602

Wayland 9,928

Weston 8,213

SOURCE: Secretary of State’s office as of August 2016

This is the projected yearly tax impact for the average homeowner over 30 years.

Acton $40.34

Arlington $75.19

Belmont $33.25

Bolton $59.66

Concord $33.61

Dover $25.33

Lancaster $116.93

Lexington $36.84

Needham $17.50

Stow $62.24

SOURCE: Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.
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