EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 3, 2013

Windham voters face $31M school proposal

Windham voters face $31M bond vote

WINDHAM – The $31 million middle school plan before voters in nine days is the biggest, boldest project on a Town Meeting ballot in Southern New Hampshire.

The expense exceeds the police station in Hampstead, the kindergarten addition and Town Hall renovation in Pelham, and the three-school renovation plan in Salem.

The boldness is in the timing.

It comes while the community is still paying off a $50 million high school that opened three years ago and just graduated its first class.

The plan also follows by just one year overwhelming voter rejection of design fees for a new middle school.

This troubles some, but not others.

“Instead of stepping back and listening to taxpayers as public servants, they decided to reissue the same plan,” said Ken Eyring of the Windham Taxpayers Coalition.

Selectman’s candidate Alan Carpenter, embracing the project at the recent Woman’s Club candidate night, said it is not unexpected, given a 20-year population boom in town.

“It makes sense we are going to have to build new schools,” Carpenter told voters. “It’s unfortunate that the need for a middle school is coming on the heels of the new high school.”

The project calls for building a new two-story middle school near the high school on London Bridge Road. Seventh- and eighth-graders would attend. It would open in 2015.

Funds would be included for athletic fields both schools could use.

The financing plan aims to limit the biggest annual tax impact to the “high water mark” experienced with the high school. That was in the 2012 fiscal year and amounted to about $700 on the bill for a home valued at $300,000.

As the high school debt is retired, most years taxpayers would pay below that figure. But they would pay for a good long time – through the 2040 fiscal year.

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