Town Councilors announced that support from state legislators will result in additional funding for two new elementary schools, saving the town upwards of $8 million.
During the Council’s May 10 meeting, Council Chairman Tim Slocum said that the Town was originally “tethered” to a 35% reimbursement rate for the new Norton and north end elementary schools. He credited Liz Linehan, Democratic state representative for the 103rd District, and Courtney Cullinan, director of legislative services at the Senate Democrat Office, for getting into the new state budget a 50% reimbursement rate for the two school projects.
The difference, Slocum explained, is $20 million on the total project cost. Over the 20-year life of the borrowing plan, the Town will save approximately $8 million, he said.
For the two schools, the Town will be responsible for paying $94.6 million under the new reimbursement rate, according to Slocum.
Slocum commented that Cheshire taxpayers “send a whole lot of money to Hartford,” yet not all of it is returned to town.
“It’s nice to know that while that money is always spent on all the residents, at least this is a significant part that will help the residents of Cheshire,” Slocum said.
Linehan, who was in attendance at the May 10 meeting, fielded questions from some of the Councilors, such as Jim Jinks, who asked if the reimbursement rate for renovation projects is higher than for new construction projects.
According to Linehan, both rates are now at 50% reimbursement for a period of 25 years under the new state budget. She reminded the Council, however, that those terms could change.
“While the language does say that the rate is effective for 25 years, we need to remember that this is for any projects that are approved, and it could still possibly change if it’s written into the next budget,” she said.
She cautioned the Council not to delay on moving forward with the school renovation projects just because of the new law.
“Work as diligently, as quickly, and as carefully as possible,” Linehan said.
The Council also unanimously supported two motions that will allow the Cheshire Board of Education to apply to the state Commissioner of Administrative Services for grants for the construction of the two new elementary schools. As part of the motion, a Schools Next Generation Building Committee will be established to lead the charge when it comes to the construction of the new schools.
The Council also authorized preparation of schematic drawings and outline specifications for the construction of the new schools. Council vice-chairman Don Walsh noted that the Council doesn’t want to postpone the construction of the new schools, stating that “we need this to pass at referendum this year.”
The Council will continue discussion of the Building Committee during its May 25 meeting.
“These people will be committing to four years of hard work, and you know we will be making sure we get the right people in place,” Walsh said.