POLAND — Voters in Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls last week approved spending $5.7 million to renovate RSU 16’s combined middle and high school. Now the school board must decide when to begin the project.

Waiting six months could save taxpayers some money. However, it would leave kids in portable classrooms for the bulk of another school year.

“The discussion will be what are the pros and cons of delaying six months and is this something that is the right thing to do,” said Superintendent Tina Meserve.

The project calls for borrowing $5.7 million to add several classrooms to Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, eliminating the need for the three modular units now used for six temporary classrooms. It will also move some shared middle school-high school offices to a central location within the building and create a single, secured entrance for the middle school and Poland Regional High School.

Meserve said the Poland Board of Selectpersons has asked if the school system could delay the project for six months to allow for final payments on some old debt. That would reduce the amount of debt the towns carry and would lower how much taxpayers would have to pay.

As it stands now, the project would add about $40 to the tax bill of a $100,000 home in Poland, $47 to that home in Minot and $54 in Mechanic Falls. That would be for the first year only.

After the old debt is paid off, the project would add about $25 to the tax bill of a $100,000 home in Poland, $29 to that home in Minot and $33 in Mechanic Falls.

If the school system didn’t delay the project, taxpayers would pay the higher amount the first year and the lower amount all years after that.

If the school system waited, taxpayers would pay only the lower amount from the first year on. However, students would have to stay in the portable classrooms for six months more, along with any associated inconvenience and safety issues.

There may also be other options, including paying a year of interest only. That could keep taxpayer payments down but still get students in the building on schedule.

The school system is working with legal counsel to discuss options and to get advice on the timeline. After that, the School Committee will vote. 

That vote had not been scheduled.

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 Bruce M. Whittier Middle School


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