SCARBOROUGH – On Election Day, this town’s voters must decide if the building committee’s recommendations meet the original goal to design an educationally sound and fiscally responsible school.

The School Board and the Town Council have unanimously supported the design and cost of the new Wentworth Intermediate School. Now individual voters must decide for themselves if this is right for the town.

This building committee has put in hundreds of hours and rivals past committees. I’m sure members of prior committees, including the likes of Albert Libby, Elwood and Kippy Mitchell, if they were still alive, would agree that this is a well-qualified and fiscally responsible group of individuals who serve on the building committee.

The majority of the citizens agree that the town needs to make an investment in a new school. Wentworth has served the town for over 50 years.

It first opened as a middle school serving grades 7-9 and over the years it has changed and now serves students in grades 3-5. Quite simply we all agree a new facility is needed to educate our students for the next 50 years.

The issue of cost and efficiency is a concern of citizens as it has been with the building committee, School Board and Town Council. At the first meeting that Paul Koziell, chair of the building committee, spoke at, a School Board meeting, and then at a council meeting, he said the building would be educationally sound and fiscally responsible. He has carried out his promise.

Having been in a financial job all my life, I can assure you that the new Wentworth is fiscally responsible and affordable. The design is simplistic to minimize costs; the core structure, (cafeteria, kitchen, gym, library etc.) is designed to support the programs currently going on at the school.

The school provides food service for the K-2 schools in addition to Wentworth, community service space and a gym used by the high school and community. The 40 classrooms are designed initially for 20 students per room. Currently there are 770 students in Wentworth, but more important, as the population grows, the school can handle more than 900 children, so we won’t be faced with portables in the years to come like the middle school was shortly after it opened.

The design cost per square foot is $240, or the second-lowest of 10 recent schools built in Maine. Given the current construction climate, bids may come in below the maximum proposed cost of $39.1 million.

The current interest rate for a 20-year AA municipal bond, which yields less than 3.5 percent, will be the lowest any project the town has had relative to the bonded amount. The future increase to the town’s budget will be minimized as the manager and council manage the town’s debt structure.

When payments on the new Wentworth get into the operating budget in 2015 there will be a substantial reduction in existing debt.

The current principal and interest cost on existing debt reduces by $1.3 million in 2014 and $1.8 million by 2015. If the town bonds $39.1 million for the new Wentworth over 30 years at 4 percent, incremental bond payments could be less than $200,000 per year, or less than 1 percent on the tax rate.

By 2016 the existing debt cost reduces by the cost of the new 30-year bonds at 4 percent. Even if rates increased to 4.5 percent prior to issuance of the bonds, the reduction in existing debt by 2017 could offsets the cost of the new debt.

As the finance chair for the School Board, I believe the town is well positioned to absorb the cost of the new Wentworth building without significant increases to the tax rate if the council and School Board continue to minimize the use of debt except for large-capital, citizen-approved projects.

That, coupled with a very competitive construction market and historically low interest rates, provides the town with an opportunity to build the new Wentworth to support the educational needs of Scarborough at a very affordable cost.

I encourage all town residents to come out and vote. Answers to questions on the new school are available at www.newwentworth.com.

– Special to the Press Herald