New Waterford High will cost taxpayers less than expected

Waterford - With an approved renovate-as-new status, about $15 million in previously ineligible construction costs for the new high school are now on the table for state reimbursement.

That means the cost to taxpayers will be significantly reduced for the $68.3 million project, Superintendent Jerome Belair said Friday.

Belair said he is still waiting to hear from the state about exactly how much it will reimburse the town for the project, but at an estimated 34 percent, Belair said it would be a "significant amount."

The approval required a special legislative petition - crafted by state Sen. Andrea L. Stillman, D-Waterford, and state Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford - that would allow certain parts of the project that didn't quality for the renovate-as-new status to now qualify. That legislation was drafted in June and, upon Board of Education and School Building Committee approval, was sent to the state the following month.

"It was a long haul, but it was definitely worthwhile. I know the taxpayers are going to be the direct beneficiary because the debt service will be lowered," Belair said. "In order to qualify for renovate-as-new status, all of the facility must have a life expectancy of 20 years. We looked at the cost and felt the town could win greatly if we could do the upgrade to 20 years, that way we could be eligible."

School board Chairwoman Kathleen McCarty said the designation is a "win-win" for the town and doesn't change the scope of the project. The School Building and Maintenance Committee is watching the bottom line very carefully, she said.

"There's no additional funding added to the project at all. There's not one extra dime being put into it, and this is all because of the new status," she said.

High school construction is on target, and students are expected to move into the new building after April vacation.


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