The Cape Elizabeth School Building Advisory Committee is focusing on three possible solutions to address the town’s aging and sprawling elementary and middle schools with the goal of presenting a final plan to voters in November.

The estimated project costs range from $64.5 million to $135.5 million, with estimated annual property tax increases between 10.4% and 20.2%.

The wide range is intentional, said Cynthia Voltz, a school board member and co-chair of the advisory committee.

“Our goal from the onset was to have a range of options to consider and to understand what value we get at each price point,” she said. “The feedback from the community after the past referendum was to go back to the drawing board, and we really did.”

Voters defeated a $115.9 million proposal for a new elementary and new middle school in November 2022 by a vote of 3,817 to 2,337.

The plans under consideration were culled from seven proposals.


One of the three plans calls only for renovations and additions, primarily to address cafeteria, energy efficiency and safety concerns, and is estimated at $64.5 million. The second plan, estimated at $116 million, involves renovations along with additions that allow for flexible classrooms, collaboration hubs and other priorities.

The third option calls for a new middle school and improvements to the elementary school. That option comes with two designs at an estimated cost of $111 million and $135.5 million respectively.

All of the plans include renovations at the high school as well, which could ultimately be taken out of the elementary and middle schools proposal and funded through the school department’s capital improvement budget.

The committee is looking at ways of cutting the costs of the more expensive projects, such as mixing elements of the two renovation and addition options.

“I think there are some people who see that as being more palatable from a referendum perspective,” said Town Councilor Penny Jordan, co-chair of the building committee.

Other community members favor building a new middle school, she said, and the committee also is looking at slimming down the new middle school proposal.


Anything more costly than the failed $116 million proposal is likely to fail again, and mixing options or dialing back on designs will hopefully lead to a passable price tag, she said.

“We are all driving toward the goal of getting a price and a referendum that we hope will pass in November,” Jordan said.

Designs and cost estimates for mixing the remaining options are being developed by architects at Harriman ahead of the committee’s March 7 meeting.

The estimated property tax increase with the $64.5 million option is 10.4%, and for the $116 million plan, 18.3%. The third option, with the new middle school, would carry a tax increase of either 16.2% or 20.2%, depending on which design is chosen. Under those estimates, the owner of a home assessed at $630,000, the median home price in Cape Elizabeth, would see their annual tax bills increase $753, $1,322 and $1,169 or $1,457, respectively.

If passed in November, taxpayers would only pay half of the forecasted tax increase in fiscal year 2026 before the full increase is implemented the following year.

The town has gone through a rigorous process to calculate the financial implications of each option. Project cost estimates were provided by Harriman and then independently verified by Turner & Townsend Heery, according to the committee. The tax impact analysis was conducted by consultants Moors & Cabot and then verified by Town Manager Matt Sturgis.


Voltz said a benefit of building a new middle school now and renovating the elementary school is that it would stagger future costs.

“If we were to build two brand new schools right now, we could potentially put the town in this position again 50 years from now, where we’ve got two buildings that have huge needs,” she said.

Voltz and Jordan noted the benefit of having Town Council and school board representatives on the building committee this time around. The Town Council was caught off guard by the cost of the 2022 proposal, which exceeded initial estimates.

“I think this is a much more collaborative process with the town,” Voltz said. “I also think the committee is really representative of all viewpoints in town … it’s a diverse committee from what their background and knowledge and thoughts on the project and scope (are).”

However, Voltz said this year’s proposal is “a new project,” and Jordan agreed.

“This is a different project and we have to move away from comparisons (to the prior proposal) and move forward,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to focus on where we’re at now.”

For more information on the options, including designs, go to

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