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Belmont Votes Yes!

 

In a definitive vote that carried all eight precincts, Belmont decided to move forward on the new 7-12 school. The result, with 76% voting in favor of Question 4, demonstrates that Belmont is a town that values education and understands that this is the most fiscally responsible way forward for the town.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who worked tirelessly on the campaign, and to everyone who voted YES for Belmont. 

What’s wrong with the old school?

A new school – what, when, and how?

Two schools in one – middle & high school
This is an exciting opportunity for all Belmont students.

  • Our elementary schools can once again become true neighborhood schools.
  • Our 4th through 6th graders can remain younger by delaying entry to middle school.
  • 7th and 8th graders will benefit from access to resources previously unavailable to them.
  • And all children will benefit from a school without overcrowding.

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Keep what works – replace what doesn’t
The new school is a combination of renovation and addition.

  • The design preserves athletic facilities.
  • The high school classrooms and shared spaces will be replaced.
  • A new middle school wing will create an appropriately-sized facility for 7th and 8th graders, who are very overcrowded at the current middle school.

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One project solves overcrowding at all six schools
With one project, we can solve Belmont’s entire overcrowding problem throughout the K-12 district. Through a coordinated “shift” — grades 7-8 to the middle/high school and grade 4 to the Chenery upper elementary school — every building will have the space needed to properly serve our “new normal” enrollment levels.

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Hard facts about the numbers

$80 million state funding is on the line
For more than 10 years, Belmont applied to the state to enter the grant program to help build a new school. Finally, in 2016, Belmont was chosen.

  • In August 2018, the state approved an approximately $80 million state grant to help build the Belmont 7-12 School, leaving approximately $213 million to be funded by Belmont taxpayers.
  • The grant is tied to the current design, cost and timeline for the new school and cannot be changed.
  • This is a one-time, limited offer. Belmont must approve funding for the new school in the November 6 election.
  • If the town rejects the project in the November 6 referendum, Belmont forfeits the $80 million state grant and the money will be given to another town that has public support to fund and build a school. MSBA grants are “use it or lose it” opportunities.
  • If that happens, we will be on our own to solve our problems. After wasting 2 1/2 years of their time, the MSBA will not be interested in choosing Belmont again any time soon. If we vote “no” in this referendum, we need to be prepared to “go it alone” without state funds.
Cost is comparable to Arlington and Waltham
Belmont is not alone. Other towns with projects similar to Belmont’s in terms of timeline and complexity are coming in with the same ballpark cost, if not more.

Arlington recently completed their feasibility study and chose a design with an estimated price tag of $308 million.

Waltham began the feasibility study process in 2016 and produced estimates for two sites that ranged from $283 million to $300 million. Neither of these town-owned sites were feasible, and in June 2018 the town council voted to use eminent domain to take property for a new school. The land will cost $18 million, and with 4% escalation of construction costs, the new school could cost as much as $324 million, plus land.

Yet both of these projects will serve fewer children than Belmont’s. Arlington’s new/renovated school will serve 1,755 students at a cost of $175K per student. Waltham’s new school will serve 1,830 students at a cost of $187K per student. Belmont’s new/renovated school will serve 2,215 students at a cost of $133K per student. Belmont will see a much higher value per student than either of our neighboring towns.

Spend now … or spend more later
The Belmont 7-12 School will cost a total of $295 million. With $80 million from the state and $2 million already spent on feasibility and design, that leaves a balance of $213 million funded through debt – if voters approve the funding on November 6.

It is tempting to think that there must be a cheaper solution, but this is not the case.

  • Any other approach will require renovations and additions at Belmont High School and Chenery Middle School, in addition to 40+ modular classrooms to support enrollment until these projects are completed – potentially a 10-15 year process.
  • This piecemeal approach will likely cost Belmont taxpayers more than the Belmont 7-12 School – this cost analysis will be available from the school department in mid-September.