South Portland voters on Tuesday approved a $47.3 million project to renovate the high school by a 6,673-4,297 vote.

The vote was in sharp contrast to the election three years ago when voters soundly rejected a $56 million proposal. School officials went back to the drawing board and came back with a trimmed-down proposal, cutting out a second gym, an artificial turf field and 29,000 square feet of space.

Jeffrey T. Selser, spokesman for the Renew South Portland High School political action committee, said the vote demonstrated that the voters of South Portland really care about education and the future of the city.

“We are thrilled. This is really fantastic news,” Selser said.

Proponents gathered at a social hall to await the news, and whoops could be heard in the background as Selser spoke by phone.
The regional accreditation body put the school on warning status due to building problems, including a leaky roof and an outdated electrical system.

With approval of the renovation funding, the added tax burden for a house valued at $200,000 is estimated to be $218 in 2015, the peak year. The total impact over the 20-year life of the bond would be $3,646 for that household.

The project is not expected to receive any state aid because of the city’s strong tax base and the lack of crowding at the school.
The school was built in 1952. A gym was added in 1958, an annex in 1962 and a cafeteria and auditorium in 1997.

The renovated school would have a capacity of 1,100 students, about 200 more than the current enrollment.

Opponents, including City Council candidate Albert DiMillo Jr., argued the project was too large and would waste millions of dollars. He concluded the project could be built for $30 million and still satisfy accreditation standards. 

The building design process could take a year. The renovated building should be ready for students in 2015.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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