A rendering of the discovery classroom, which will be a free-standing multipurpose space for the new Kate Furbish School in Brunswick. (Courtesy of PDT Architects)

BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College will contribute more than $500,000 to the town next year through its annual contribution and property taxes, a $150,000 increase from 2019, the school announced Tuesday. Officials also announced a $450,000 donation to build a “discovery classroom” at the future Kate Furbish Elementary School.

While Bowdoin College is a tax-exempt educational institution, it pays property taxes on certain buildings and also makes an annual voluntary contribution. Bowdoin College has an assessed parcel value of more than $174 million, Town Assessor Nicholas Cloutier said Tuesday. Of that, about $3.8 million is taxable. Last year, the college paid $72,590 in taxes, but without the tax exemption it would have been more than $3.2 million, he said.

Last year, Bowdoin’s combined tax and contribution payment to the town totaled $378,800, college officials said in a press release. The $150,000 increase will result in annual contributions and tax payments to the town that will exceed $540,000 in 2020 and beyond.

The $150,000 increase will go toward capital expenditures, including vehicles, municipal equipment and capital improvements to facilities or infrastructure.

The combined municipal and school spending plan for the next fiscal year is more than $67 million, and represents a 5% increase in taxes, and was approved in a split vote by the town council earlier this week.

“The college has contributed to several projects over the years and annually makes a voluntary contribution to the town budget,” Town Manager John Eldridge said in a news release issued by the college. “Bowdoin’s generous gift to the school department and the college’s plan to increase its annual contribution further demonstrate its commitment to Brunswick and are greatly appreciated.”

Similar private institutions, like Colby College in Waterville and Bates College in Lewiston, do not make routine donations to their towns, but instead contribute to other projects throughout the year, either with funds or volunteers, the respective town offices said.

In September, Waterville town councilors considered a petition to ask Colby and Thomas College to contribute annually to help offset the tax burden, the Morning Sentinel reported. The petition gathered more than 1,000 signatures, but the council ultimately decided not to be involved, partially on the grounds that it was not their role as a council to make such requests.

Construction of the “discovery classroom” at the Kate Furbish Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in 2020, will begin this fall.

The 1,000-square-foot classroom, housed in its own building on the school site, will have sinks, tables and storage space to aid in nature experiments, visiting art and science programs, presentations and other hands-on activities.

“This building will provide the opportunity for the children at Kate Furbish elementary to experience nature-based learning, science, gross-motor movement and music in a space designed specifically for those activities,” said Sarah Singer, a member of the Brunswick School Board and chairwoman of the building committee. “We have many education partners who work in our schools to provide enrichment to our curriculum, and this classroom gives us the space to provide that programming.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School already has two discovery classrooms, and one at the new school was something that school officials wanted from the get-go, Singer said. The district had to remove the discovery classroom from designs early on as a cost-saving measure. Sinks and extra space were then allocated to the cafeteria so it could serve as a sort of multi-purpose space, she said, but it was not ideal. This space is a “real gift” from Bowdoin, she said, adding that the district has “immense gratitude” for the building and Bowdoin’s “shared vision for great education” in Brunswick.

“We are very pleased to be able to fund this unique learning environment for students—a ‘discovery classroom’ that will also have other uses for the broader Brunswick community,” said Bowdoin President Clayton Rose in the news release. “This gift by the college builds on the considerable investment the community is making in its public schools—an investment that keeps Brunswick such an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family.”  

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