Town Councilors, School Board members and residents recognize the need for something to be done with the outdated Pond Cove and Middle School building, officials say, but the cost to taxpayers is of big concern.

If authorized for the ballot at a council meeting in August and passed by voters Nov. 8, a 30-year $126.5 million bond order to fund the project would increase the property tax rate by 25.6%, according to Town Manager Matt Sturgis. The owner of a home assessed at $400,000, who now pays $8,104 per year in taxes, would see their bill go up $2,072 to $10,176.

“I think it’s, honestly, a reasonable concern,” Superintendent Chris Record told The Forecaster. “All of us – the School Board, Town Council and town citizens – are really trying to navigate this … trying to meet the needs but also recognize we’re asking a lot of our taxpayers.”

Councilor Penny Jordan said at a council workshop Tuesday it is asking too much.

“I support the schools, I support the need for them, but I cannot support putting something forward at this time,” Jordan said.

The town may be “in a great financial position,” she said, but that does not mean all Cape Elizabeth homeowners can afford the large tax increase.


“You have individual houses all over town, they don’t necessarily have the same financial standing,” she said.

The project would replace the Pond Cove and Middle School building at a cost of over $90 million. The elementary school and middle school were built in 1948 and 1933, respectively, and the two were connected through a series of renovations in 1955, 1956, 1962, 1994 and 2004.

Another $24.3 million would construct shared facilities, including a cafeteria and gymnasium, and be used for site work and athletic fields. Nearly $4.5 million would be put toward renovations at the high school, about $545,000 would be used to preserve the 1933 building and over $6.2 million would be reserved for contingency costs.

The likelihood of the project receiving state funding, Record said, is low.

“We wish we could get state funding,” he said, adding that the last round of state funding was in 2018 when just three of more than 70 schools that applied were funded. “I don’t see our schools qualifying or getting to the top of that list for years to come.”

The new schools are designed to be more energy-efficient, and safer and easier to navigate, than the current ones.


“Our current buildings are very spread out and sprawling,” Record said. “The new ones are much more cohesive and efficient. That will help with efficiency in terms of heating and cooling costs, and also help students in how they navigate the building.”

With a new building comes new utilities, and the new building’s envelope could significantly cut utility costs, Calen Colby, president of Colby Company Engineers, said at the workshop.

“This building is a heat sink,” Colby said. “It’s hungry for energy, it’s leaky and old, and the insulation is terrible.”

Colby said the current 187,000-square-foot building burns roughly 71,000 gallons of oil every year. Even if the new schools were to heat with oil, which they won’t, Colby said there would still be a big cost savings. Because of the efficiency of the new building, he estimated that the combined 240,000-square-feet of space in the new buildings would burn 32,000 gallons of oil a year.

Electrically driven heat pumps, energy recovery ventilators and solar power are some energy systems currently under consideration for the new schools, Record said.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the school project Aug. 8. The School Board is scheduled to take a final vote on the project Aug. 9.

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