State OKs $80.6M Grant To Build New 7-12 School; Critical Debt Vote In November

Photo: The design of the new Belmont 7-12 High School.

The future of the new 7-12 High School is now in the hands of Belmont voters.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 29, the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved a $80.6 million grant towards the $295.2 million Belmont High School Building Project, endorsing more than two years of collaboration by the authority, the Belmont High School Building Committee, the Belmont School Department, citizens, town committees and boards, and various town departments, according to the head of the Building Committee.

“We are incredibly pleased that the MSBA has voted to approve funding for the Belmont High School Building Project,” said William Lovallo, Building Committee chair.

The next step in the project process is the all-important town-wide vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, where voters will decide to approve a debt exclusion of $214.6 million to fund the balance of the project, an amount for which Belmont’s taxpayers will be responsible.

If the town votes in favor of the debt exclusion, the project will move forward with the first evidence of construction occurring in the Spring of 2019. The current project timeline is to complete installation and open the 9-12 High School portion of the school in September 2021 and to open the 7-8 grade portion of the school in September 2023.

“We are especially grateful for the support of State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers, who attended multiple MSBA board meetings and were strong advocates for the Belmont High School Project. The project has reached this stage thanks to the collective efforts of so many throughout the town, and it is a testament to how invested Belmont’s citizens are in the continued success of our schools,” said Lovallo.

The BHSBC was formed to explore solutions to the Belmont High School building deficits, including an aging infrastructure and space constraints due to overcrowding. In January 2018, after more than 50 public meetings, forums, and workshops, the Belmont School Committee voted for a 7-12 grade configuration for the school. Also, at that time, the BHSBC determined that a school design with a significant addition and minor renovation would most appropriately and effectively address the educational and facility-related needs of Belmont’s students, and would support continued enrollment growth and evolving teaching models, according to a press release from the Building Committee.

Go to belmonthighschoolproject.org for additional information on the Belmont High School Building Project and to view interior and site designs, and to follow the project journey.

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Comments

  1. Ray Ausrotas says

    Setting asked how much this helps the lower schools (ie K-8), if this doesn’t pass, you can bet that everyone’s home values (based in large part on demand created by the quality of our public schools, a credit to our teachers and the administrators dealing with far less in the way of actual resources than other comparable communities) will immediately drop 10-20%. Kids in the HS are having to take classes in hallways, or being forced to take 60-90 breaks during the day because they can’t put them anywhere. This one is a no-brainer.

  2. Marie Warner says

    Given the recent study and model predicting a “fiscal cliff” for Belmont, the Building Committee and our Selectmen have an obligation to review this enormous expenditure and consequent burden on our town and taxpayers. I am concerned that there is silence on this issue.

    • Mary Lewis says

      If this is rejected by voters, the cost to Belmont will be MORE not less. We would lose the $80m grant from the state. But the problem would not go away. With construction costs escalating 4% per year in Boston area, it will not get cheaper to build or renovate schools. We can spend $213m now, or we can spend more later.

      Moreover, Belmont’s project is actually 2 schools in one, and the total project cost for these two schools serving 6 grades and approx 2,200 students is lower than projected costs for 4 grades and fewer students in. neighboring towns like Arlington and Waltham.

    • Jonathan Birge says

      Marie,

      I’ve been a skeptic, too, and haven’t appreciated the way this was done by committee and the only vote we get is “yes” or “no” on the debt. Nor have I appreciated the brinksmanship tactics of some of the people who vocally support it, who seems to focal on shrill “sky is falling” alternatives rather than the positives of the plan. I mention that so you realize these are the words of a fellow skeptic.

      The above said, the town is indeed in huge trouble, but it’s in huge trouble with or without this school. Without it, we can probably find ways to keep the high school building going that are less expensive, and we’ll have to build another lower school that will be cheaper. Despite the claims of the proponents of the new high school, given the usual cost overruns of new construction I think it’s a safe bet that we could indeed save money by not doing this.

      But I doubt we’d save $80M, and even if we did, we’d save that money and be left with crowded schools and a high school in bad shape. While this isn’t the cheapest option, it does seem like the best bang for our buck if we want to do right by the kids.

      I think the real issue we need to focus on is limiting growth and finding creative ways to incentivize older Belmontonians to stay in town once their kids are grown and gone. This is something smart government can do something about. Unfortunately, because of some very poor governing in the past we are facing some very bad financial headwinds, but that horse is out of the barn. We need to deal with it best we can and make sure the problem doesn’t get worse. I think the new high school is the lesser of evils given our situation.

      Best,
      Jonathan

  3. says

    Hi Franklin – the debt exclusion will actually fund $212.95 million. The town has already appropriated and spent $1.75 million for the feasibility study and schematic design (at Town Meeting a couple of years ago). That amount is included in the $295 number. You could check with the building committee to make sure I have the decimal amounts right, but I know that the design funds are included in the $295. So we will be voting on borrowing that will be $213 million. Ellen

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