Cape Elizabeth voters rejected a school project last year because of its $115.9 million price tag and estimated 22.6% property tax increase and because, at nearly 220,000 square feet, it was too big, according to the results of a townwide survey released Wednesday.

The findings of the Cape Elizabeth School Board Advisory Committee’s survey will help school officials propose a new plan to rebuild the middle and elementary schools that will pass in 2024, they said.

The proposal in 2022 to rebuild the town’s middle and elementary schools, now in one building, and conduct renovations at the high school, failed 3,817 to 2,337, with 71% of Cape Elizabeth registered voters casting ballots.

About 22% of the town’s population responded to the recent survey, 1,652 people. Of the respondents, 52% said they voted against the proposal at the polls last year and 40% said they voted for it. The remaining 8% chose other options such as that they did not wish to disclose their vote or didn’t vote in the first place.

The overall cost, tax increase and scope of the project were the major reasons why respondents said they voted against it. Of all respondents, 51% said they would be willing to accept a tax increase ranging from 5% to more than 20% to fund a new school. Meanwhile, 13% said they would not support any tax increase and 18% said they would only support a project that comes with an increase of less than 5%.

“Eventual cost and tax impact matters and the tax revaluation we’re going through did impact people’s support of the project,” Superintendent Chris Record told The Forecaster.


The state of disrepair, the age of the existing school and security concerns were among the reasons people voted for the project. However, less than half of respondents identified physical structure and functionality as major concerns, which were the school department’s primary arguments for a new school. Some respondents said they need more information about alternative designs, the true tax impact, transparency around the process, and the need, rationale and justification for the project.

“As a school district, we need to do a better job in explaining the importance,” Record said. “We’ve got to tell that story so they’ll understand why we think this is so important to the education of our kids.”

The survey also made it “clear the community wants some options and some choices that include renovation and new construction,” he said.

Among those who voted against the project, 58% said they would prefer a school project that involves both construction and renovation; 43% who voted in favor said they also value that approach.

The committee has started the process of hiring an architectural firm.

The superintendent said that the survey will help guide the committee as it develops a new project.

“I’m really hopeful that the community will engage in this process, lend their voice to it, and really consider whatever options (the committee) comes up with,” Record said. “I think it’s important for the education of our students and the work of our staff … This work really matters.”

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