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Sudbury considers $2.6m tax hike for elementary school repairs

Posted January 14, 2011 04:14 PM

Sudbury faces a vote Tuesday on a proposal that would temporarily raise property taxes by an average of $37 a year to pay for repairs to the Peter Noyes Elementary School.

The warrant for Special Town Meeting, which convenes 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, includes a proposal to spend roughly $2.6 million to renovate the school, with the project including a new roof, boiler, and windows.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to reimburse the town for 35 percent, or about $920,000, under its Green Repair Program.

However, since Sudbury’s share of the construction costs would require raising property taxes beyond the limits of Proposition 2Æ, it also needs approval in a townwide vote. A special election on the tax override is slated for Jan. 25.

The warrant’s second article is a home-rule petition asking Beacon Hill to approve a cap on property taxes for eligible senior citizens.

School Committee member Jeffrey Beeler said the request for the Noyes Elementary School repairs is a rare chance to obtain state assistance in restoring the building to good operating condition.

‘‘What this gives is the opportunity to proactively address the issues we know need to be addressed eventually,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a program that’s really designed to make significant capital repairs affordable to communities with the eye of avoiding more costly projects down the road.’’

The Board of Selectmen supports the project and is urging residents to take advantage of the state reimbursement.

‘‘It’s a one-time opportunity,’’ said Selectman John Drobinski, the board’s chairman. ‘‘If the town does not vote on it, the funds won’t be available to us and we’ll have to do it down the road all with tax money,’’ he said, while describing the work as critically needed.

The town proposes to fund its portion of the project with a 10-year bond, Drobinski said.

The projected tax impact on a home valued at $628,000, Sudbury’s average assessment, would be about $37 in the first year, declining to a low of $28 at the end of the 10-year period.

Patrick Mullen Jr., the town’s Council on Aging chairman, said he has heard little discussion among fellow senior citizens about the vote, and is not sure how residents on fixed incomes feel about the tax increase.

‘‘Personally, I support it because I believe education is key,’’ said Mullen, whose three children attended the local schools.

Noyes Elementary was built in 1951 and had an addition built in 1970. It is Sudbury’s oldest and largest school and the most centrally located, Beeler said. The building’s three major areas in need of repairs are the roof, boilers, and windows, he said.
Depending on the section, the roof is either 25 or 28 years old. It’s been repaired over the years but continues to leak in places. Beeler said many ceiling tiles are stained, and in some places tiles have been removed because the leaks continue.

The boilers date to 1970 and have exceeded their operational life, officials said. Beeler said that a failure during the winter could cause serious and expensive difficulties to keep the building open for its 647 students.

As for the windows, about 55 percent are about 40 years old, have single panes and are not energy efficient, Beeler said. Many rubber gaskets are missing or falling out, and most are difficult to operate. The remainder have double panes, but are about 25 years old and lack proper insulation.

Officials said the problems mean that the building is often either too hot or too cold, which creates a difficult learning environment. In addition, the faulty windows don’t properly lock, creating a security issue.

Drobinski said the repairs qualify for funding under the agency’s energy-conservation program, which is limited to repair or replacement of roofs, windows, and boilers at facilities that are otherwise sound.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority launched the $300 million Green Repair Program in August, saying its goal is to help improve learning environments, reduce energy use, and generate cost savings.

Members of the town’s Energy Committee and an engineering consultant have estimated that the Noyes School repairs would save about 35 percent on energy costs, and about $47,000 in maintenance costs annually.

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

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