A preliminary rendering of the lower entrance of the proposed K-3 school in Scarborough. Contributed / Harriman

A $160 million project to build a consolidated K-3 school has made its way onto the November ballot after the Scarborough Town Council Wednesday narrowly approved a land deal with The Downs.

The council voted 4-3 to accept a $7.2 million purchase option agreement for a roughly 22-acre parcel near the old race track at The Downs development which comes with $8.8 million in infrastructure improvements, including new roads.

As part of the deal, the town will add land to The Downs’ existing Credit Enhancement Agreement and the town’s downtown Tax Increment Financing district. The expansions financially benefit The Downs, but town officials say the changes could also help pay down the debt on the new school.

Councilors John Cloutier, Nick McGee and Don Hamill voted against the agreement, primarily because of the CEA and TIF adjustments.

After the purchase agreement vote, the council voted 6-1 to send the project to voters.

Hamill remained steadfast in his opposition to sending the project to referendum.


“It’ll be no surprise to anyone that I’ll be pretty consistent with my voting,” Hamill said. “I can’t support this.”

Voters will be asked to approve $160 million for the project, with $140 million earmarked for the K-3 school, about $4 million for renovations at the middle school and $16 million for the land and infrastructure projects. The owner of a home valued at $400,000 would pay an additional $200 to $400 in annual property taxes at the peak of the 30-year borrowing period, the town estimates.

Overcrowding at Scarborough schools goes back more than 20 years, but the most recent push for a solution began in 2017. The K-3 consolidated school would replace the town’s three existing K-2 primary schools, freeing up Wentworth School, currently serving grades 3-5, to take on sixth graders and alleviate overcrowding at the middle school.

Council Chairperson Jon Anderson said much of the opposition to the project he’s heard from residents is because of the location, not about the need for a new school.

“I understand that many are frustrated with The Downs, however, I ask you to please put your frustrations with The Downs aside and unite with me and others that the needs of our children in our community outweigh any frustration towards a business – a business that, I add, does add benefits to the community,” Anderson told councilors and residents in attendance before the council vote on the referendum.

He encouraged residents to attend a Sept. 20 council workshop for an annual report on The Downs from developers.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina reiterated her earlier arguments for the school project, saying the town can’t wait any longer to launch the project.

“My daughter graduated from Scarborough High School in 2009 and when she was in school we had portables … I find it hard to believe that I’m sitting here on a Town Council in 2023 and we’re still talking about this,” Caterina said. “If we aren’t going to fix this now, when do you think we’re going to fix it, and how much more do you think it’s going to cost?”

With the Nov. 7 election fast approaching, Councilor April Sither said she is “fully committed to working for the next two months that we have left to educate and inform the public” about the school project.

Comments are not available on this story.