Bill Quirk Responds to First Selectman, Carl A. Balestracci, Jr.

Mr. Balestracci's opinion piece was published January 8, 2003 in the Shore Line Times.

Mr. Balestracci's statements appear in italics.  Bill Quirk's comments are indented.

On Jan. 14, we will vote on a comprehensive school construction project that includes an addition to Baldwin Middle School, a new 7/8 school on the Baldwin campus, a 775-seat auditorium, and a new east/west access road. The estimated cost of the entire project before state reimbursements is $55 million. With a committed state reimbursement of $13,400,000, the net cost will be $41,600,000. Our excellent bond rating and low interest rates make the timing of the project judicious. Construction costs are the lowest in years. And, today we are guaranteed a 33 percent state reimbursement on the project, a rate which, given the current state deficit, will likely go down significantly in the future.

Taxpayers are asking how the school project will impact them. Using current town expenditures, the new mill rate expected for next fiscal year will be about 22 mils, down from the 33 mils it is today. Using that new rate, the school project will cost $50 per $100,000 of assessment in year two of the project, $100.00 in year three, $165.00 in year four, and from there will gradually diminish. For example, a house with an assessment of $250,000 will pay $125 in year two, $250 in year three, and $412.50 in year four. The Board of Education has long been working with experts in the fields of demographics, curriculum trends and school construction to address the enrollment increase. Last fall, the Board of Education voted unanimously to support the proposed project. Subsequently, both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance voted to send the project to referendum.
As part of the initial study, an exhaustive analysis of an Adams School renovation was conducted. Built in 1936, Adams is currently operating well above capacity and there can be no doubt that growth will continue. Due to the lack of appropriate space, converted storage space and closets are being used as classrooms. The cost of additions and renovations would reach millions of dollars, qualify for much lower state reimbursement, and would only serve as a temporary solution leading to greater expense in the future. Extensive renovations would also require relocating students for one or two years. The new school will provide an environment that will deliver the appropriate middle school education our children deserve. It will enhance the team teaching model and support a curriculum more suited to middle school aged students' learning styles. Once the new middle school is completed, a small portion of the old building will be used for municipal offices. The Board of Education offices will move there to make way for the library and the Parks and Recreation Department will utilize the gym and meeting room space. Rental space can be offered to outside organizations with the income used to offset operational costs. The addition to Baldwin will also address burgeoning student enrollment. With an original capacity of 500, Baldwin currently houses 627 students. The addition will provide enough space for 750 students and expand the existing cafeteria. The new auditorium will accommodate our award winning performing arts program. Building the auditorium at the same time as the new school increases our share of state reimbursement. The construction of an auditorium is not only educationally sound, it is also fiscally prudent. The auditorium can also be rented to outside organizations to help offset operational costs. Finally, the construction of a new road connecting Long Hill Road with Route 77 has been in our Comprehensive Town Plan for decades. It will provide desirable east/west access and ease traffic congestion at the school. Click here for The Guilford Middle School Building Project: A Summary View
Click here for Bill Quirk Replies to the Guilford Board of Education
Click here for the Guilford CT Public Education Home Page

Copyright 2003 William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
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