Bill Quirk Responds to First Selectman, Carl A.
Balestracci, Jr.Mr. Balestracci's opinion piece was published January 8, 2003 in the Shore Line
Mr. Balestracci's statements appear in italics. Bill Quirk's comments
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
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.
- We are not guaranteed the $13,400,000 state reimbursement.
- This project requires that the town take over the maintenance of Adams.
The base annual cost is $183,000, according to Mrs. Truex. The
annual cost for maintenance employees is unknown at this time. The BOE
plans to move current maintenance employees to the replacement building.
- This project assumes that Adams will be renovated for other use. The total
cost to do this, with 20-year bonding, is unknown at this time.
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.
- These are very optimistic expectations. They assume a worst-case
project-related increase of just 1.65 in the mil rate, four years from
now. The actual increase will more likely be double this amount, and
that doesn't include any increase related to the ongoing maintenance and
renovation of Adams.
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.
- I questioned the qualifications of Educational Consultants of Connecticut
(ECC) at the November 4th BOS meeting. I said that there's no
evidence that they've ever carried out a comparable project for another school
district. There's still no evidence!
- Who are the "curriculum trends" experts? We should be learning from
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
- The ECC analysis was very superficial. They merely described the
space at Adams. They never analyzed how space is actually used.
- We've never seen the details that explain why Adams can't be preserved as
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
- There are 44 classrooms at Adams, with 34 of these rooms currently used
for all team teaching and language instruction. Although average class
size is 21, at least nine of these 34 rooms are empty every class period, and
16 are empty for four of the eight periods. This is because only one teacher
uses each classroom. This arrangement made sense when teachers taught every
period, but teachers at Adam have three non teaching periods.
- Converted storage space and closets as classrooms? Why not use all
those empty classrooms?
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.
- Putting all aspects together, the current project could easily cost 80
million dollars over 20 years.
- Let's forget about significant reimbursement. That won't happen.
- There's no evidence that we need significant additions and renovations. We
should first be much more efficient about use of space currently available in
Adams, Baldwin, Cox, Jones, Lakes, and Leete.
- "Greater expense in the future" appears to assume a significant growth in
school age population. But there's evidence that we may actually
experience a gradual decline for the age 5 to 19 group, over the next 12
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
- Annual maintenance of Adams will be a new $500,000 expense. There's
no free lunch.
- We still have no idea about the cost to renovate Adams for new town use.
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.
- Original capacity of 500? What about current capacity? Recall
that at the October 28th public defense, the Baldwin Principal, Mrs.
Sturkowski, said she didn't need portable classrooms. But
there are 627 students at Baldwin now, so it appears that the real capacity
exceeds this figure.
- Next, let's analyze actual space use at Baldwin. Similar to Adams,
teachers at Baldwin have 3 non-teaching periods. How many
classrooms are empty each class period?
- Finally, will someone please explain how building capacity is determined?
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
- At a recent BOS meeting, former First Selectman, Mr. Larkins, told you why
he didn't agree with the inclusion of this significant additional expense.
Click here for The Guilford Middle School Building
Project: A Summary View
- This connecting road may be much more expensive than we currently expect.
Click here for Bill Quirk Replies to the Guilford
Board of Education
here for the Guilford CT Public Education Home
Copyright 2003 William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
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