AUBURN — City Manager Clinton Deschene said he plans to continue working with School Superintendent Katy Grondin on Friday to determine how much a new high school would cost taxpayers.
"Specifically, we need to really lay it all out and discuss how to fund this," Deschene said. "We need to create an agenda for a bigger meeting when we can go through it all."
The New High School Steering Committee is working to determine how to best replace Auburn's failing Edward Little High School without state construction money. If the plan to replace the school proceeds, all costs will be paid by Auburn taxpayers.
Deschene told committee members Wednesday that taking on $45 million in bonded debt would raise Auburn's tax rate by $1.40 per $1,000 of value. The city's current property tax rate is $19.59 per $1,000 of value.
With no other changes to the budget or the city's other revenues, $45 million in new debt would increase property tax payments on a $150,000 home from $2,938 to $3,148 — a $210 difference.
An option to take on $65 million in debt would increase the property tax rate by $2.04 per $1,000 of value — to $21.63 per $1,000 of value. That would add $306 to the tax bill of a $150,000 home.
Either tax increase would change Auburn's profile compared to other Maine cities. Auburn currently has the eighth highest tax rate among Maine's cities, below Bangor, Belfast, Eastport, Calais, Presque Isle, Waterville and Lewiston.
Both the $45 million bond option and the $65 million bond would move Auburn higher than Bangor and Belfast.
But Deschene said those numbers are very preliminary.
"Realistically, we are between $35 million and $65 million," Deschene said. "That's why it is so hard to say anything. I don't like talking about hypotheticals and everything is so hypothetical right now."
Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Thursday that he thinks the bottom line to build a new school should be even higher due to maintenance costs.
"We should be spending $1 million per year in maintenance costs at our schools now," LaBonte said. "Add another $50 million facility, and you can add at least another $1 million to the bottom line."