The subcommittees looking at potential improvements for Orono schools have started with a budget of $14 million – although that number is far from etched in stone.

The subcommittee work comes following a facilities study that was done to help plan for potential improvements to Orono schools. PDT Architects of Portland, which worked with Orono on a previous facilities study a bit over a decade ago, was brought back to again look at Orono’s schools for possible capital improvements and facility expansion and upgrades that may be needed to help ensure that the quality of education in town is maintained.

In its report, which is non-binding, PDT offered a lengthy list of issues that it said should be addressed. There are no immediate life safety concerns, but repairs and upgrades, which for one reason or another have backlogged over the years, can not be put off indefinitely. The most recent work done on the Asa Adams School dates back to the mid-1970s; the high school/middle school building, the high school/middle school building is 80 years old.

PDT had recommended $28 million in improvements, which would require a tax increase of roughly $500 annually on a $175,000 home. RSU 26 Superintendent Meredith Higgins told the Times last month that amount would not be sought, but rather “significantly less,” although no target was announced.

For the time being, the working number is $14 million, spread out in four areas: $4.7 million for the Asa C. Adams School; $4.9 million for the Orono Middle School/High School complex; $3.5 million for performing arts; and $1.1 million for athletics. The subcommittees have started with those numbers, see what can be done in each area for the amount of money allotted, and those recommendations will then be reviewed. Amounts could go up or down, depending upon what is decided.

Funding for whatever is to come likely would come in large part – if not totally – from a local bond. There has been hope that a vote could come by June, although that is a tight time frame that ultimately may not be feasible.


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