AUBURN, Mass. – The Auburn School Building Committee approved the total project budget estimate for a new middle school on West Street at Wednesday’s meeting, submitting a preliminary budget of $48 million to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
School and project construction officials emphasized that this is only a draft and not the final cost of the project, saying the number could come down. With a preliminary budget of $48.2 million, MSBA can reimburse the town up to $21.3 million, which leaves the town paying $26.9 million for the middle school.
“As we continue to move closer to bringing this project to the voters, tonight being a pivotal step in that process, the excitement certainly on my part, the staff’s part and the School Committee’s part really becomes heightened,” Superintendent of Schools Maryellen Brunelle said. “We’re getting that much closer to realizing our goal, our dream of bringing a new middle school to our students.
“This is another great step, so we’re thrilled,” Brunelle added.
By submitting the total project budget to the MSBA, the Auburn Public School District will now seek approval for the project from the MSBA in January.
In November, the Board of Selectmen approved the new school on West Street to be funded by debt exclusion. The 4-1 vote from the selectmen means that a majority of residents would have to approve funding the project on a ballot question in the spring. The project also would require a two-thirds approval of Town Meeting members in the spring.
The debt exclusion approval means residents each year could be paying $66 to $78 for every $100,000 of real estate value in property taxes.
“But that’s not etched in stone yet,” Chief Financial Officer Edward Kazanovicz said. “We still don’t know how many years we’ll borrow at, and we don’t know the final project cost yet. We could pay less than that, depending on the project cost. It’s a moving piece, so it won’t be determined for another three, four months.”
In addition, Auburn has agreed with the Masonic Lodge, the property owner, on a purchase price of $325,000 for the 6.6 acres for a new middle school on West Street. In October, Town Meeting members voted to appropriate $610,000 from general fund revenue to the stabilization fund, which would be used to purchase the land.
Now, Town Meeting members must approve taking $325,000 out of stabilization to purchase the land, which is contingent on approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority in January and the town's ballot vote on a new middle school in the spring.