ORONO – The proposed facilities improvement bond for RSU 26 will mean an increase in the mill rate of nearly two dollars per thousand dollars of valuation, according to information posted online last week by RSU 26 officials.

Two weeks ago, the school approved authorized sending a bond to not exceed $16.845 million to voters in June. The proposed bond comes after more than a year and a half of studies of improvements needed to maintain the quality of education in Orono in the years ahead. That amount includes improvements to all three town schools, as well as athletic field work and a new auditorium.

RSU 26 currently has one bond that runs for another seven years. If approved, plans are for a bond that would wrap the new one into the current one, with the goal of keeping bond payments at roughly the same amount until paid off – an estimated 23 years. The current bond payments are $260,000-$285,000; if the facilities bond is improved, the total bond payment would rise to $1.07 million to $1.235 million annually – more than $800,000 more a year than the current bond.

Using the most recent year’s valuations, the increased payment for bonds would amount to an increase on average of 1.93 mils in an average year For an average-priced Orono house of $170,000 with a homestead exemption this amounts to $289.83/year in new taxes or $0.79/day, according to calculations by school officials.

There also would be a slight increase in operating costs due to the bond – a net impact on annual operating costs of $44,625/year. That would add a few pennies more to the mill rate.

If the bond is approved construction is anticipated to start in the spring of 2020. Work would like be wrapped up in 18 to 24 months.

For more information taxpayers can contact Superintendent Meredith Higgins at [email protected] or 207-866-7110. You can also contact School Board Chair Brian McGill at [email protected] or other board members whose addresses may be found at https://www.rsu26.org/district-school-board/.

There will be a public hearing on the bond on May 28 at 6 p.m. in the town council chambers.

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