RSU 26 officials agreed last week on setting the amount for a proposed facilities bond at $16.85 million.

Superintendent Meredith Higgins said that the bond – which must be approved by voters at referendum – would allow RSU 26 to do all major projects that were deemed most necessary; major renovations have not been done at Orono’s schools in nearly 50 years. The list would include the following a new cafeteria and entrance, administrative and support space at the Asa Adams School; renovations and expansion of the cafeteria, four new classrooms at the OHS/OMS complex, a new entrance and support staff space at the high school ; electrical, ADA and miscellaneous repairs throughout the schools; redoing thee track and inner field; an auditorium with band and chorus space; and parking lot repairs.

The scope of work for the central office and its support staff has been scaled back, according to Superintendent Meredith Higgins, with the scale of work to be done there to depend on what is allowed as the bigger pieces of the project move forward.

“We think we’re at the right place for this project,” said Higgins. “We tried to be as fiscally responsible as we could, to make it an amount taxpayers could bear.”

Still to be decided this week is how the proposed bond, which will go to Orono voters in June, would be funded. One option would be the Maine Bond Bank; that does now, however, allow a flexibility in the payment schedule schools officials may seek – paying less on principal on the facilities bond until another bond for $300,000 is retired in 2026.

“Another option would be to go with independent financing, which is what the town used in its last bond,” said Higgins. “That would allow the lower principal payment until the existing bond is paid off.

Any bond sought probably would be for a 20 year period; the exact amount of annual payments should be set by Friday, said Higgins.

If the bond is approved, work on the schools could begin in the spring/summer of 2020. Construction most likely would be completed by 2022.

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