2014-01-17 / Letters

Cost of renovation proposal is too high

To the editor:

An elected body’s most sacred trust with the public it serves is to spend their tax dollars as efficiently as possible and make objective decisions that are uncompromised by influences of personal motivation that risk interest conflicts with the public good. Can the citizen taxpayers of Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport feel confident that the question they are being asked to vote next Tuesday lives up to that statement?

New debt and taxation of $75 million, really $113 million with interest, is what your school board seeks; $53 million and $22 million are dedicated to the high school and two elementary schools respectively. Voting yes will impose perhaps the single largest tax increase on residents of our three towns in generations. Is this all necessary? Expert consultants hired by our board have told us that school enrollments are expected to continue to decline for the next 20 years.

High school enrollment is down 21percent since 2006. Elementary school enrollments are continuing to drop and our three elementary schools are projected to be under full use by 504 students in six more years. We continue to owe more than $10 million on Kennebunk Elementary School. Yet our board wants new taxes to be imposed to spend $22 million, $33 million with interest, to renovate our two oldest elementary schools when more than $41 million in taxes could be avoided by using our school facilities more sensibly.

A $10 million, $15 million with interest, 500-seat performance arts complex is planned for the high school as a standalone building.

Rather than a more cost effective plan to attach it to the high school, certain school board members who also are board members of the private nonprofit Southern Maine Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, have had the plan shaped to accommodate expanding the complex to 900 seats if and when they fulfill a $20 million fundraising campaign. Once completed, SMCVPA will manage the complex, and certain operational costs are planned to become the responsibility of our local taxpayers. Did you know that?

Uncertain times as they are, folks struggle to meet higher taxes, the effects of Obama Care, prescription drugs, heating oil and town budgets that are destined to go higher still. Will you look your neighbor in the eye next Wednesday and tell them you voted to raise their taxes for a school plan as irresponsible as this one?

Jeff Cole

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