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North Haven residents showed up in force on June 17 to overwhelmingly approve the new middle school budget referendum with 2,139 in favor of and 705 against a new school. Residents approved $69,814,452 in bond funding to finance the renovations.
Building Committee Chair Gary Johns was happy with the results and said, "A good portion, in the range of 30- to 40 percent, of the initial $69 million, will be reimbursed by the state."
While supporters were confident they'd made the case that renovations to the middle school were needed, questions remained about voters' support primarily due to the 5.9 percent tax increase residents dealt with just last year.
First Selectman Michael Freda had said he could not raise taxes this year because of last year's tax increase and because "there would be a chance voters would reject the middle school plan if taxes are raised."
For almost three years, the Town of North Haven has been discussing the problems with the middle school and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) report confirmed the upgrades to the middle school were necessary.
According to the NEASC report, much of the school building and outside grounds are in need of repair or replacement, and they are notably below adequate standards.
The concept that the Building Committee decided upon was a "renovated to new" school. The committee said the concept would allow the town to significantly improve the middle school with both new construction and renovations to the existing facilities.
The renovations will include building a completely new classroom wing while maintaining some other usable school facilities.
Other building improvements would address needs in the auditorium. Some science rooms will also be addressed.
Plans also include improving handicap accessibility as well as adding a 350-seat gymnasium, new academic wing, library, cafeteria, and parking.
"I am very pleased with the results of the referendum," Freda said. "This middle school project represents a very important initiative of this administration to enhance the quality of education here in North Haven. This project also represents an improvement for the town overall because we are going to be making an investment that significantly upgrades a facility that needs to be upgraded."
Freda added, "Overall, we are in fine financial shape to go out to bond for this project. We will be retiring 73 percent of our existing debt on our balance sheet over the next 10 years, and we are growing our top line revenue through bringing new businesses into town-and are now AAA rated [for bonding], which will significantly save us on interest costs as we bond for this project over a 20-year period. All of this will ease the tax burden for our citizens in future years."
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