EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 29, 2013

Pelham seeks bond for SAU offices

Voters asked to OK $895,000 bond

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM – School administrators have a backup plan if voters fail to approve renovating Town Hall for the relocation of School Administrative Unit 28 offices.

But taxpayers won’t see much of a savings.

Administrators have estimated leasing office space in the community for 10 years would cost about $80,000 a year.

A warrant article coming before voters will ask them to approve an $895,000 bond issue to finance renovations to Town Hall.

The school district would help pay that off with rental payments to the town amounting to $217,000 per year over five years.

The pending breakup of the Windham-Pelham SAU this summer is forcing the move to new offices.

Windham will keep the current SAU 28 offices to house its new standalone SAU 95. Pelham’s future administrators have been invited to temporarily share space in Windham while Town Hall is renovated for their new home.

A key selling point at Town Meeting for the renovation plan is that the town won’t just be throwing money away on rent, they will have something to keep.

School and town officials have discussed the benefits of sharing meeting space in the renovated facility.

Consultant Gino Baroni of Salem-based Trident Project Advantage Group met with the Budget Committee earlier this month.

Baroni told the budget panel if the town was going to spend money, it should do so on its own facility to build its assets.

Selectman Ed Gleason told the Budget Committee a five-year bond would add 15 cents to the tax rate in the first year, decreasing to 13 cents by the fifth year.

Committee members questioned whether the project could be financed over one year, but Town Administrator Tom Gaydos said that would result in a 61-cent impact on the tax rate.

The Budget Committee voted, 9-1, in favor of the bond issue, with only Larry Hall dissenting.

School officials also are on track with a request for voters to approve a $1.7 million kindergarten addition at Pelham Elementary School.

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz, who succeeds the retiring Henry LaBranche this July, said the plan would let the town take advantage of building aid from the state for kindergarten construction.

“If this initiative passes, then Pelham will be eligible to receive 75 percent of construction costs up to $1 million from the state,” Lecaroz said.

The aid program is scheduled to expire in June, so this potentially is the last chance for the town to benefit.

It also would eliminate the need to rent portable classrooms to house kindergarten students, she said, and solve space needs for kindergarten and special education preschool students.