What are the priorities of the Millis School District given that discussions are in play about repairs and enhancements to Clyde Brown, expansion of the Middle/High School, replacing/updating Athletic Fields and overall technology upgrades throughout?
While we have done a good job maintaining both school buildings the bottom-line is the buildings are old, overcrowded, systems need to be replaced and/or updated, and are not necessarily designed to encourage effective 21st century learning. The system of making do with in-house repair and maintenance has run its course and we are faced with significant capital expenses estimated at $4M dollars. These repairs are to major facility components such as HVAC, roof and boilers. These systems are all the end of their useful life and no longer meet code requirements. The $4M in system repairs will not address the overcrowding issues and only solves the urgent facility systems needs.
We understand that there are many competing priorities for limited funding and acknowledge that the new library and police/fire projects are causing many to consider what they can afford. The repair and renovation of Clyde F. Brown is not an optional project but one that is required. These repairs and renovations need to be done.
The schools have been talking about issues with their facilities for years. What is different this time?
The Millis Public Schools have applied for grant funding from the MSBA for the last four years to address district needs of repairs, overcrowding and renovation. This is the first time we have been invited into the process. If we turn down this opportunity we will send a signal to the MSBA that a building project in Millis lacks the town’s support and could impact how they view future statement of interest applications.
Could we just fix the building on our own enough for it to last another 10-20 years?
If the town votes down the feasibility study and opts instead to repair and renovate parts of the building over 10‐20 years, there would be no reimbursement from the state. The town would incur all costs for bringing the building up to ADA and safety code, replacing the roof, providing fire suppression, replacing the heat distribution and ventilation systems, installing a proper security and intercom system, and, if necessary, housing students in alternate venues while these fixes were made. This approach would likely cost the towns more than working with the MSBA. The choice is between a comprehensive approach subsidized substantially by the state or a piecemeal approach paid for completely by the town itself. Without a thorough study, we can’t know with confidence the best, and most cost-efficient, way forward. For a short time now, we can commission such a study and have the state pay at least half of it.
What is the Feasibility Study cost and what will be the total tax impact to the average Millis homeowner per year? What is the life of the borrowing cycle?
The cost of the feasibility study will be $1,000,000. The cost of the feasibility study will be $1,000,000. Based on a $1 million principal balance (financed over 5 years), and an average household value of $354,500, the estimated cost to taxpayers will be approximately $70 or less per year. This amount adjusts to approximately $34 per year after factoring the state's 51% reimbursement. The state provides its reimbursement on a 'pay as you go basis' with invoices paid within 15 days of submission.
These estimates are subject to bond market conditions and the optimal financing structure at the time of debt issuance.
"$1,000,000 for a feasibility study seems really high. How did you come up with the $1,000,000 price tag and what does it pay for?
The School Committee and School Administration researched MSBA projects with a similar profile to the Clyde F. Brown project. Projects over the past five years were researched and reviewed to determine the average cost of a feasibility study, the increase year over year as well as the cost of feasibility studies to be completed in 2015. In addition, discussions with other school districts that are currently in the MSBA cycle also provided valuable data to use in determining the estimated costs. After taking all of the research and data into consideration the School Committee determined a reasonable cost estimate, in-line with other similar purpose projects, of $1 million.
The $1 million fee pays for hiring an Owner’s Project Manager, the designer/architect and includes a 5% contingency. The Owner’s Project Manager is a requirement of the MSBA process and is a critical component to a successful project. The Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) will provide project management services from the start of the feasibility study through the completion and building occupancy. The $1 million cost provides for OPM services only through the feasibility phase. The OPM will serve as the central point of contact on the project, managing communications between the Town, the design/architect firm and the MSBA.
The designer/architect will evaluate the needs of the district, provide solutions as well as cost estimates. This process includes multiple surveys including environmental, hazmat, traffic, impact on surrounding areas, site survey, facilities review, wetlands and other surveys as needed.
The feasibility study documents the educational program, generates an initial space summary, documents existing conditions, establishes design parameters, develops and evaluates alternatives, and recommends the most cost effective and educationally appropriate preferred solution to the MSBA Board of Directors for their consideration, then proceeding to development of a robust schematic design of sufficient detail to establish the scope, budget and schedule for the proposed project.
The whole process can take up to 12 to 18 months from the hiring of the owner’s project manager to conducting the study.
What would likely happen if we don’t proceed with the feasibility study?
The Town will be obligated to pay full price for the repairs and renovations necessary to bring the building up to educational, safety, and legal standards. Based on the Tetra Tech space needs study finished in 2014 the cost to address the urgent facility systems only would be approximately $4 million over the next 2-5 years. This would not address overcrowding across the district, would not provide for any renovations or any necessary classroom and technology changes to support 21th century learning.
If the Feasibility Study is funded through the special election, but the town subsequently rejects a capital construction project, is the investment of the Feasibility Study for naught? What is the time span within which Millis would lose its MSBA grant opportunity?
If the feasibility study is funded but the town later rejects support for a construction project the town is still reimbursed 51% of the total cost of the feasibility study.
The feasibility study will provide a comprehensive review of the issues at Clyde F. Brown and a road map including options on how to address those issues. The results of the feasibility study do not change because the town chooses not to move forward with a construction project. The only thing that changes is that the Town loses more than 50% reimbursement for all costs associated with the project. The Town then becomes responsible for 100% of the costs of addressing any of the school’s needs.
If the construction project is rejected by the voters we can submit a request for another election and town meeting but almost all districts are required to initiate a new project and submit a new SOI.
What would the result of the feasibility study be?
The study would provide three or four options for the town to consider. These options would include base repair of the building, as well as options for renovation and rebuilding.
I heard about this project in the spring. What has been going on? Why are you just coming to the town now to educate us?
The School Committee decided at its 5/20/14 meeting to pursue funding for the 2013 Statement of Interest requesting funding for a renovation and/or repairs to the Clyde F. Brown School. The Committee as well as the Superintendent and the Town Manager have had several meetings and phone conversations to educate ourselves about the MSBA process and what needs to be done to ensure compliance with very strict guidelines. There were a number of required steps that had to be fulfilled to move forward in the process after the MSBA formally invited Millis into the eligibility period in early June. We have been working all summer and fall on these steps while educating ourselves on what needs to occur to secure funding for a feasibility study, the next step in the process.
At the same time Millis learned that we were being invited back into the process for our 2013 SOI we submitted a SOI in April 2014 to the MSBA for a renovation project at the MSHS based on the recommendation of the space needs study conducted by Tetra Tech. The 2014 SOI was denied by the MSBA in December 2014. At that time the School Committee agreed to move forward on the CFB project as there are major repairs and system replacements that need to occur within the next few years, regardless of grant funding from the state.
What is the scope of the future project at Clyde F. Brown? Do we know whether we are renovating Clyde F. Brown, or constructing a new building?
The feasibility study will initiate a transparent process in which active community engagement will be sought to determine the nature of the solution to the issues at Clyde F. Brown. No decision has been made on whether the solution will involve renovation or rebuilding. The feasibility study will review all options and will provide multiple solutions that best meet the needs of Clyde F. Brown and the district.
Why do we have to have a special election and town meeting? What will it cost and why can’t we do it in May during our regular town election and meeting?
The MSBA eligibility period ends March 16, 2015, which is prior to the town election and meeting in May, therefore we have no choice but to have a special election and town meeting.
The cost of the special election is approximately $4,000 - $6,000 and the cost of the special town meeting is approximately $1,000.
How much will the average taxpayer’s bill increase due to the Clyde F. Brown construction project?
We do not know what the project costs will be until the feasibility study is conducted. We estimate the study period will conclude within 12-18 months. As a result of the feasibility study the Town will be presented with multiple options to solve the issues at the Clyde F. Brown School as well as overcrowding across the district. Only after the final option for construction is determined will we be able to provide the estimated tax impact. Multiple presentations to Town Committees and Boards as well as Town forums will be held to disseminate tax impact as well as other project information. To move forward with a construction project another town vote and town meeting will be required to determine if the town wants to pursue whatever project option is selected.
Why should we partner with the state?
The MSBA uses state sales tax revenue to provide grants for major school projects such as renovations or new construction. If we undertake a major project in partnership with the MSBA, such as a full scale repair, a renovation, or a new school, the MSBA will cover more than half the cost, including the cost of the mandated feasibility study. If the town decides not move forward and partner with the state we will have to pay the whole cost of any building repairs and/or renovations by ourselves.
Does a “Yes” vote for the feasibility study constitute a “Yes” vote for a new building or a renovation to the Clyde Brown?
No. An affirmative vote for a feasibility study is a vote for full exploration of options available to Town of Millis.
“Doing nothing” is not an option, given the aging facility and the systems that needs repair and replacement with the next several years. If the town votes down the feasibility study the Town will be turning down grant money that would reimburse the Town for more than half of the expenses with renovating and repairing the Clyde Brown School.
Who would make the final decision of how to proceed after the feasibility study?
After community input, the School Building Committee would recommend to the School Committee which option to propose to the MSBA. The School Committee would have the final vote and the MSBA would need to approve the selected option as well. This option would then proceed to schematic design. The MSBA would assist with putting together a scope and budget agreement, generating a price for the project. The project then goes to the full MSBA board for approval and the development of a project funding agreement. Once this agreement is signed, the towns have 120 days to vote the funding.