Sutton approves new school funding
BY JOSH FARNSWORTH
With her seat on the line, school committee member Wendy Mead listened for the election results Tuesday night in Sutton Town Hall. Mead did not receive a single vote, but got exactly what she wanted.
Sutton voters approved the town’s portion of the funding for a new middle-high school with an overall cost of $59,945,474, with nearly 69 percent of the vote. The proposal passed, 1,593-690.
In April, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) board of directors approved plans to fund $29,843,511 – approximately 55.4 percent of the total project price tag. An article at Town Meeting on May 10 was approved by the necessary two-thirds vote to move the item to the town election ballot.
“I am really thrilled the town did the right thing,” said Mead, who is also chairman of the School Building Committee, and chose not to seek reelection to the school committee for personal reasons. “I think the town understands the needs of the town in general.”
“I am thrilled,” said School Superintendent Cecilia DiBella. “As I retire this year, I am delighted Sutton voters confirmed the need.”
The project will add approximately 118,000 square feet of new construction and renovate more than 56,000 square feet of existing school, while keeping intact the core building that bridges the current middle and high school. According to Town Administrator Jim Smith, the burden on the taxpayer beginning fiscal 2012 will be $356 per average household, which will be lower than the current $700-$900 bill per year, as several current debt exclusions expire over the next two years.
Opponents of the one question on the ballot argued that any additional taxing was inappropriate in the current fiscal climate. With deteriorating conditions in the current building and the school system facing a potential loss of accreditation and loss of state aid, those in favor of the project said the margin of approval spoke volumes for the town’s need to build sooner than later.
“I think it is very important to see the community values the kind of education that can only happen in a modern facility to prepare students for the 21st century,” said DiBella. “I have a great deal of confidence they will build a great school.”
“We are building two schools and saving $30 million,” said Sutton Selectman John Hebert. “This is only going to help the property values in town. We have a lot of things going for us.”
With the design approved by the MSBA, the building committee will work with project designers to finetune the details of the project that Smith expects to break ground as early as next summer. Although the project passed all necessary rounds of approval, he said the road to a new school was winding but not over.
“We are now going to work real hard,” said Lucille DiLeo, who will take over as principal at Sutton High School beginning in July. “We are going to forge forward into a 21st century facility.”
“The voters have spoken,” said Smith. “Now it is our job to finalize the design and build a building that meets the needs to make Sutton proud for generations to come. Now it is time for the work to begin.”