AUBURN, Mass. – Auburn will be one of 10 towns to vote in a special election Thursday to decide whether the Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District can borrow $73 million for renovations and additions to the Bay Path Vocational Technical High School.
The special election for the Charlton school project is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. at Auburn High School. The other towns to vote are Charlton, Dudley, North Brookfield, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Southbridge, Spencer and Webster.
The total cost is projected at $73.8 million, with a $46.5 million reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Association.
According to Bay Path officials, Auburn’s share would be about $7.3 million (including interest during the course of the 30-year bond) for the work, which will add 50,000 square feet and renovate the 45-year-old school. The estimated tax impact on the average Auburn home valued at $222,492 is $8.49 for fiscal year 2014, with a maximum annual cost of $26.09.
Supporters say if the district doesn't approve the project it will lose the financial assistance from the state, which means the district's towns would be 100 percent responsible for the cost. Proponents say they need to replace a 45-year-old roof, the heating and ventilation system, windows and more.
Bay Path project supporters also say the current building serves 1,074 students in a facility designed to house 850.
“Severe overcrowding has resulted in the creation of additional classroom space within vocational shops,” a ‘Vote Yes’ pamphlet states. “The building envelope is deteriorated with water and air infiltration, and the roof is in need of replacement.”
Opponents, such as Steven Maher of the “Vote No to $73.8 Million Committee,” do not want to see a hike in taxes. In addition, Maher points to a state evaluation document that states, “the building has been well-maintained and is structurally sound.”
“Bay Path is not now, and never has been, in danger of ‘falling down around us,’ ” Maher said.
That same document states, “There are a number of inadequate spaces and outdated building systems within the building that continue to constrain the district’s delivery of its desired educational program.”
The measure doesn't have to pass in every town to move forward, according to Auburn Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury; it needs a majority vote in the 10 towns combined.
“It could lose in Auburn, but if there is a majority in the district, then it will go forward,” Gaboury said.