Kevin Nadeau

Kevin Nadeau

If the Regional School Unit 5 high school renovation bonds are not approved on Nov. 5, it will greatly increase the likelihood that Freeport will withdraw from RSU 5. This could prove very costly to Durham taxpayers, according to the Vote Yes for Our School Committee.

In October of last year, when Durham considered withdrawal from RSU 5, a report from the Educational Exploration Committee, appointed by the Durham Board of Selectmen, compared the cost of staying in the RSU and contributing to an expansion of the high school to the cost of withdrawing and paying tuition to send students to high schools in neighboring towns.

The report concluded that it would save Durham an estimated $845,000 per year to stay in the RSU and support renovating the high school. Voters elected to remain in the RSU by a 3-to-1 margin last November.

After Durham experienced a 10 percent property tax increase from the RSU in 2013, many questioned whether it was still less expensive to be in the RSU.

An updated comparison I developed using current tax rates and proposed bond payments shows that, while the savings advantage of being in the RSU has diminished somewhat, to just over $700,000 per year — contributing to the high school expansion as a member of RSU 5 is still the more cost-effective option for Durham taxpayers.

Durham’s RSU payment would have to increase 10 percent per year, every year for the next six years, before RSU 5 would cost more than being a standalone school district. It is extremely unlikely that will happen.

If approved, the high school renovation bond would cost the median taxpayer in Durham $136 per year. The turf field and track bond would add another $24 per year.

If Durham were not in the RSU, the estimated tax increase for the median taxpayer would be $506 per year — nearly four times the cost of the renovation bond payment.

KEVIN NADEAU served as chairman of the Educational Exploration Committee and is a recently elected member of the Durham Budget Committee.

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