SACO – Many in Saco have probably heard that the Saco School Department and School Board hope to construct two new school buildings, one for pre-K and kindergarten students and another for students in grades 1-5 — something voters will have the final say on.

But how much will the new buildings cost? The amounts have finally been revealed.

For the grades 1-5 school building, the state will contribute $101.3 million and the city will seek $7.9 million from local taxpayers, according to a proposed funding breakdown from Saco Schools Superintendent Jeremy Ray.

The pre-k and kindergarten building, which will rely exclusively on local dollars, will cost $31.4 million dollars. The total to be shouldered by local taxpayers would be an estimated $39.3 million.

Taxpayers will have to approve the funding scheme before the project can move forward. If everything goes according to plan, voters will weigh in during the June 11 election.

Saco decided to embark on building the new school campus to upgrade its facilities and address longstanding infrastructure issues. School leadership has so far selected a site for the new school, a plot between Mill Brook Road and Route 1 that borders the Eastern Trail.


The new school buildings would replace Fairfield and Young schools (which currently house kindergarten through second grade), and C.K. Burns School (home to grades 3-5). Pre-K students currently are in a leased out space at the Toddle Inn, and they would also be moved to this new school campus.

Those involved in the project, like Superintendent Ray, have emphasized what a golden opportunity it is to have funding from the state to complete the school construction project – even if taxpayers have to pay for a portion of it.

“Our ability to build two schools (one state-funded and one with local tax dollars) with a combined total of locals paying less than 28% of the cost is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to educate our children in state-of-the-art facilities,“ Ray wrote in an email.

On March 25, City Council voted to ask residents whether they favored moving forward with the school construction project. The referendum question to appear on the June 11 ballot will ask voters to approve both schools or none at all.

City Council initially received advice from the school department to ask voters to approve each school independent of the other. But multiple councilors, including Mike Burman of Ward 4 and Philip Hatch of Ward 5, said they had been swayed to support them appearing as a single question.

“At the onset of our prior meeting, I stated a preference for two questions,” Burman said. “But during the course of that meeting, I became convinced during the discussion that this truly is one project. We, as a city, desperately need both schools.”


“Should one pass and the other fail, it really leaves us without an option … I’ve been convinced that the question to put to the public should be ‘do you support this project in its totality, or not?’” he said.

Councilor Nathan Johnston of Ward 7, who did eventually vote in favor of having them appear as one question, said he had reservations about the one question configuration.

People deserve to be able to consider the questions separately and reject the local funding if they wish, Johnston said.

The referendum question passed unanimously.


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