Possible budget increase could push back vote on Ledyard Middle School

Ledyard - A referendum on a long-awaited renovation of Ledyard Middle School could be pushed back to November from the original goal of presenting it as part of the town's May budget referendum.

At a Municipal Building Committee meeting Monday night, the Board of Education's Facilities Committee chairman, Mimi Peck-Llewellyn, told committee members that with a large spending and tax rate increase proposed for next year's town budget - Mayor John Rodolico submitted his proposal to the Town Council last week with 6.6 percent more spending than in this year's budget - the board is reluctant to put a major building project to a vote at the same time.

"This is a terrible budget year, and we're only asking for trouble," she said.

A plan would still need to be submitted to the state by June 30 in order to be considered for reimbursement in the next fiscal year. If the voters approve the project in November, the state would allow the project to move forward.

School options, costs presented

At the same meeting, representatives from Silver/Petrucelli and Associates - the firm charged with designing the renovation - previewed schematic plans for several scenarios, including renovating the middle school as new, starting from scratch, and renovating both the Gallup Hill School and Ledyard Center School, one of which will ultimately be slated to close.

The cost estimate for renovations to the Gallup Hill School is $28.4 million, with the town paying $10.6 million. In order to renovate Ledyard Center School as proposed, the town would pay $11.7 million of a $31.1 million project.

As for the middle school, by renovating the existing building as new, the town would pay an estimated $13.3 million of a $35.6 million project - about $10 million cheaper than the plan that almost went to voters last May before the Town Council scrapped it.

Building an entirely new school at an unspecified site would cost at least $48.7 million - environmental factors and site-specific costs were not included in this estimate - with a reimbursement rate 10 percent lower than the 62.5 percent the state would pay for a renovate-as-new project. That would leave the town with $23 million to shoulder.

Municipal Building Committee Chairman Steven Juskiewicz said considering this cost differential, he will ask the Town Council whether they would like to consider pursuing this option, which Councilor Bill Saums brought forward in January. The decision will ultimately lie with the Board of Education.

Peck-Llewellyn said that the Board will also consider the "intangibles" in their decision-making process, among them student safety and security, transportation and busing costs and the feasibility of playing field and parking space.

Project architect Michelle Miller and project manager John Ireland said their next step will be to finalize the cost estimates and begin looking at a timeline for completing the proposal. The Board of Education will then discuss their options again before coming to a final decision.



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