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So What's a New Middle School Going to Cost?

The answer is $92.6 million when all is said and done. City officials estimate property taxes will rise on average by $108 six times to cover payments on a 30-year bond for the new middle school.

So what it's going to cost for a new middle school in Peabody? An average increase of $108 for taxpayers six times over the next 30 years.

A tentative debt service schedule from City Finance Director Patricia Schaffer shows payments due for a 30-year bond in fiscal years 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, 2035 and 2044.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt and the Higgins School Building Committee received a favorable recommendation from the City Council's Finance Committee this week to authorize the city to borrow up to the total amount the project is going to cost ($92.6 million).

Here's a breakdown of that number and how much the state will reimburse the city:

Project Costs Eligible Costs Feasibility study $850,000 Subtotal project costs $88,384,026 Owners project manager $1,705,700 Ineligible costs ($14,823,073) Architect/engineering $5,736,665 Net eligible costs $73,560,953 Construction costs $76,735,661 Contingency costs $4,214,253 Miscellaneous costs $140,000 Costs eligible for MSBA grant $77,775,206 Furnishings/equipment $3,216,000 Subtotal project costs $88,384,026 MSBA grant 56.16% $43,678,556 Construction/owners contingency $4,214,253 City costs for project
$48,919,723 Total project costs $92,598,279

A portion of the ineligible costs above are for the school auditorium -- the MSBA is only willing to reimburse the cost of the stage, which would have been included in a "cafetorium" (similar to the setup in an elementary school).

Schaffer said the city would only need to borrow about $49 million, which would be its portion of the construction cost, but the MSBA requires that the full amount be authorized locally. The MSBA issues reimbursement payments as they are due on the bond.

Schaffer said the city would end up paying $36 million in interest over the life of the bond anticipating a 4 percent interest rate. She noted, however, that due to the city's high bond rating and continuing low rates in the market, the city could likely secure a 3 percent interest rate.

A vote on the bond request will be before the full council at its next meeting May 9 to make that decision official. With that agreement in place, the project team can return to the Mass. School Building Authority for permission to begin the next phase of the project.

That phase includes still more detailed designs and several months worth of documentation to prepare to go out to bid for a general contractor for the building project. The goal is to break ground in June 2014.

"The stars are aligned the right way to make this thing happen," said city councilor Dave Gravel, who chairs the finance committee.

He added that a $49 million bond isn’t a "light thing to consider," but "you couldn’t find a better environment to make an investment than now [due to the low interest rates]."

Bettencourt also said neighborhood meetings will be scheduled again in the coming weeks to discuss the project and field any concerns on construction, etc.

Saber Walsh May 03, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Whatever happened to the days when cities bid these projects out? It seems that there's only one architect and one contractor who does all this work, and we end up paying well beyond commercial costs.

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