Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the estimated project cost? What is Wareham’s anticipated share?

A: The “all-in” not-to-exceed project cost including design, furnishings, technology, utility connections, move-in and appropriate contingencies is $90.47M. The project’s schematic design submission included a projected MSBA reimbursement of up to $51.8M, leaving the remaining $38.6M to be paid by the District. The potential MSBA reimbursement figure is subject to MSBA review and will be finalized via MSBA Board vote scheduled to occur on December 12, 2018. Although the potential for deviation exists, it is believed that the district share will continue to remain under the $40M district share figure previously published.

Q: What is the MSBA reimbursement rate for eligible project costs? What items are ineligible for reimbursement?

A: The projected reimbursement rate is 74.98%. Reimbursement applies to ‘eligible’ project costs only. Examples of ineligible costs include abatement of vinyl asbestos tile, moving costs, swing space, soft costs in excess of 20% of construction cost, site costs in excess of 8% of the direct building cost, and building costs in excess of $333/SF. Although assumed ineligible scope has been factored into the projected district share, ineligible costs and space are reviewed and negotiated with the MSBA upon completion of the schematic design phase.

Q: What is the grade configuration and enrollment of the new building? Why not include 5th grade?

A: The preferred solution is for 1020 students in grades K-4 plus 5 PREK classrooms to accommodate another ~80 PREK students. The allowable enrollment study scenarios are determined by the MSBA prior to commencement of the feasibility study. The MSBA’s analysis concluded that the district has sufficient space in its Middle and High Schools for grades 5-12 and therefore the MSBA will not provide reimbursement for 5th grade in the new elementary school. The MSBA’s enrollment calculation assumes 85% space utilization and therefore includes contingency for potential increases due to a number of varying factors.

Q: Why not repair the existing buildings?

A: The estimated cost to repair Minot now and Decas five years from now is $74M, and does not resolve the overcrowding issue. An addition/renovation option which does solve the overcrowding and satisfies the district’s approved Educational Program, thus securing state funding, has been studied and found to be no less expensive than building new. Furthermore, a new building lends itself to better energy efficiency and lower long-term operational/maintenance costs, resulting in additional savings for years to come.

Q: When would construction start/end?

A: Schematic design will be completed by December of 2018. Detailed design, MSBA approvals, and bidding will take one year from there so new construction could start as soon as early 2020. Target opening is the Fall of 2021. With the building vacant there is an opportunity for a separate early demolition and site prep package, so this early enabling work could occur as soon mid-2019. The schedule above is contingent upon approval of Wareham’s November 6, 2018 ballot question #4 which would allow the debt exclusion for project related costs.

Q: Does the Town need to borrow the entirety of the $90.47M estimated project cost? If so, what happens to the reimbursement payments from the MSBA, where does that money go?

A: While Wareham will vote to authorize the full project value, the Town does not need to borrow the full amount for the project, just the anticipated district share. Reimbursements of eligible costs are made by the MSBA on a monthly basis. Upon receipt of MSBA Board approval on December 12th, a comprehensive cashflow projection will be developed by the Owner’s Project Manager which will forecast the anticipated district’s out of pocket expenses at any given point in time. This cashflow projection can then be utilized to limit borrowing to only what is absolutely necessary to keep the project moving along, thus keeping borrowing charges to a minimum.

Q: Has there been any thought as to how Minot Avenue and the site will accommodate the additional traffic resulting from increased volume of parents picking up their children?

A: Absolutely, the preferred schematic report included a full traffic study of Minot Ave, and includes suggestions for traffic mitigation. Costs associated with the traffic mitigation necessary to address this concern have been included within the cost estimates.

Q: Why is it so expensive to repair the existing buildings when a new school would require all of the same work and then some?

A: Several have stated “The new school will need all the things and costs an upgrade will require plus new walls, roofs, ceilings gyms, fixtures , plumbing, demolition of old school, foundations.” which is 100% correct.

However, the existing schools also need those exact same items in order to be brought up to current code. The walls and roofs do not meet current energy code (lack of insulation or vapor barrier). The existing ceilings contain asbestos and would need to be abated & replaced. The plumbing systems do not meet low-flow or handicap accessibility requirements. The gymnasiums require new floors, structural reinforcement, lighting and mechanical systems. It is true that the new building will require foundations, but the old building would also require extensive foundation work, in addition to steel shear bracing and seismic clips throughout as necessary to meet current structural code.

When working within the confines of an existing structure, costs for these items increase exponentially. Imagine trying to install new mechanical system ductwork (to satisfy the current code’s minimum outside air requirements) in an existing small cramped corridor with low ceilings and a plethora of other old systems in your way versus the same task in a new structure which has a clear route and has been designed and framed to accommodate these necessary systems.

Q: What year was Minot constructed? Why are some much older schools still in service?

A: The existing school was constructed in 1965 and a new one would not be open until 2021, 56 years later. Buildings constructed in the early 1900s are actually easier to renovate than those from the 1960s as they are typically structural masonry type construction with higher ceilings, wider corridors and larger rooms that lend themselves to more easily accommodate requirements such as sprinkler systems, mechanical ventilation, shear/seismic braces, etc.

A Board of Selectmen member stated it perfectly on Tuesday June 26th: buildings from the early 1900s held up much better than those constructed in the 1960s/70s. Design professionals are well aware of the reasons for this and Wareham’s Architect has been steadfast in their approach to design a building which is flexible enough to accommodate future needs for decades to come. It is impossible to predict the future, but we can certainly learn from the past.

Q: Do the $90.47 million estimates include what’s needed inside the building ex: desks whiteboards? Or will this a surprise after the fact?

A: The $90.47M is an all-in number, it includes contingencies, furnishings, equipment, technology, utility connections, even movers for when the building is complete. Furnishings, fixtures, equipment and technology are all fully reimbursed by the MSBA with an allowance of $2,400 per K-4 student for a total reimbursable FF&E / IT budget of $2,448,000.

Q: How much of that hill behind the school would the new project be cutting into?

A: In addition to the Town Forest and trails behind the existing school, Minot Avenue is known to be an archaeologically sensitive area and the team is working with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to limit any new disturbance. The project team intends to stay within the confines of the existing limit of disturbance from when the building was originally constructed in the 1960s and is working closely with the MHC to pro-actively identify and mitigate any potential impacts to sensitive areas.

Q: When is the budget locked in? What assurances do we have that the building committee will not seek further increase to budget upon completion of design?

A: The Building Committee intends on going for one and only one debt exclusion, on November 6th, 2018. At that point the designer’s contract will include a design-to-cost clause based upon the authorized budget to prevent what the industry refers to as “scope creep.”

Q: Can you please explain the MSBA’s sitework reimbursement cap and how it impacts this project? On a hill, and with a 2 or 3 story building and new parking, there is going to be a lot of sitework, especially with a loop road around the building.

A: The State reimburses for sitework costs up to 8% of the direct building cost. That is why it is so important to understand that reimbursement is 74.98% of eligible project costs. The district share forecast takes ineligible costs such as sitework exceeding 8% of direct building cost into consideration.

One of the contributing factors to the 2/3 story approach is to work with the existing topography and limit ineligible sitework costs. By having one 3 story wing (down the hill) and one two story wing (up the hill), we limit the amount of soil cut and fill. Nearly every project, even in dense urban areas with limited sitework, exceeds the MSBA’s 8% cap.

In Wareham’s specific case, the preferred schematic report sitework estimate is $9,115,912 and the MSBA reimbursable amount is estimated at $3,741,683. That means that $3.74M is reimbursed at 74.98% and the remaining $5.37M is ineligible for reimbursement. As we work through design development, the Building Committee will focus on reducing ineligible costs to the maximum extent possible in order to reduce the burden on Wareham’s taxpayers.

Q: Why not use the MSBA’s model school program to reduce design costs? It has been suggested that this program could save up to $30M, is this accurate?

A: None of the five MSBA approved “model school” options are large enough to accommodate Wareham’s enrollment of 1020 K-4 + Prek. The largest elementary model from Andover was designed for 680 students and can only accommodate a maximum of 816 students with design modifications (http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/programs/model_school).

On a traditional design bid build project, the MSBA provides reimbursement of Architect’s fee to 10% of Construction cost. Owner’s Project Manager fee is reimbursed to 3.5% of Construction Cost. Total soft costs are reimbursed to 20% of Construction costs; a figure which not only includes the aforementioned design/management fees but also includes furnishings, equipment and technology. With a model school, design costs are reduced by roughly 4% of construction cost, all other costs remain identical, it is still controlled construction, designers are still are liable for any design issues and still must have a presence on the project; therefore a realistic savings would be approximately ~$3M to be split between Town and MSBA (4% of $72M construction cost). Ultimately Wareham’s cost savings may only amount to approximately $750k under the model program if it were eligible for that program, which it is not.

Q: What is the current estimated tax impact for the average single family home, and when will a final number be available?

A: The estimated tax impact is $0.82 per $1000 of assessed value for a 20 year bond at 3.75% interest. A 20 year bond is estimated to save the Town of Wareham more than $14M over the life of the loan. The average condominium valued at $177,155 has an estimated annual tax impact of $145.27. The average single family home valued at $258,143 has an estimated annual tax impact of $211.68.

The above figures are for a $40M district share scenario which includes $4.2M of project contingencies. The actual district share may be an amount less than $40M and any project savings resulting from unused contingencies or bid savings would inevitably reduce the district share. The district share forecast as submitted to the MSBA on October 17th was an amount of $38,631,192, a final figure will be available after receipt of MSBA Board approval of the submission, anticipated to occur on December 12, 2018.

Q: How does the anticipated tax impact stack up against annual cost of living increases?

A: The 2018 cost of living increase is 2.0%. Median household income in Wareham is around $62,560 according to https://www.bestplaces.net/economy/city/massachusetts/wareham. A $200 annual impact equates to 0.3% (<1/3rd of 1%) of the median household income.

Historically, a school project’s positive impact on real estate values far exceeds the tax burden. Furthermore, under proposition 2 1/2 there would be no additional increase in taxes based upon that increase in tangible market value. If an updated and desirable school increases average real market home values by even $5,000 then it is a break even over the life of a 25 year bond.

Q: I don’t have children in the school system and I am concerned about an increase to my taxes, what assurances do I have that costs will be kept down?

A: Keeping costs down is a priority, and it will continue to be right through project closeout. It is understood that many folks affected by this decision do not have children in the school system. Comparatively speaking, the cost per square foot of the proposed elementary school is far lower than that of neighboring districts going through the MSBA’s process at the same time as Wareham.

Q: What provisions have been included in the proposed projects to benefit Wareham’s active older adult population?

A: In our Visioning Sessions where teachers, leaders, architects, Finance Committee, School Committee, and community members came together to create the design of the new school, overwhelming this group identified goal was to carefully consider the entire community. The stakeholders involved believe that this school will provide the following options for our Active Older Adult Residents:
1. Complete ADA Accessibility (ramps, elevator, parking, larger doors, halls for wheelchairs, etc.)
2. Space to create, research, learn (access to art rooms, computer labs, STEAM labs, and designated areas for research, and reading)
3. Quality gymnasium to hold exercise classes
4. Space to assist in helping our students academically and to build connections
5. A building that will provide the space to establish much needed relationships between our younger and older resident

Q: How will Wareham’s share of the project costs be funded?
A: The project will be funded through a Debt Exclusion, which is a temporary increase to property taxes in order to pay for the costs of the project. Debt exclusions are typically funded over a period of 20, 25, or 30 years, once the debt has been paid in full, the temporary tax increase will disappear. In Wareham’s case, a 20 year debt exclusion has been selected as the preferred approach and saves the district $14M over the life of the bond.

Q: Where does the MSBA grant money come from?

A: The MSBA is funded through 1% of the State’s 6.25% sales tax. Each year, the MSBA receives more than 150 applicants for project funding and selects approximately 20 recipients to be invited into the Core program.

Q: What happens if the voters do not pass a debt exclusion on November 6th?

A: The MSBA allows for no more than 120 days to secure project funding from the time of MSBA Board approval of the project scope and budget, slated to occur on December 12, 2018. If a district fails to authorize funding within the allocated period, then the project is removed from the MSBA’s pipeline and the funds are offered to the next district in need of a new school. Should the project receive another invitation from the MSBA at some point in the future, the MSBA will require that the Feasibility study and Schematic design be restarted from the beginning, and be 100% funded by the district, without reimbursement from the MSBA. Due to the number of districts in need, it may take 7 years, or longer, for the district to receive another invitation into the MSBA’s program.

In addition to the MSBA requirements above, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 59, Section 21C(M) requires approval of a ballot question within “90 days after the date of the close of any other town meeting at which an appropriate vote was adopted” (at Wareham’s October 22, 2018 Town meeting).

Q: What assurances are there that the new building will be properly maintained?

A: As part of the MSBA process, a maintenance program has been submitted to the State for their review. The State’s review of Wareham’s preventative maintenance program commended the plan and even resulted in a 1.40% reimbursement rate incentive for the proposed project.

Regarding perceived lack of maintenance at the existing buildings; the issues at the existing buildings are the result of evolving building codes, not necessarily lack of maintenance. Town has committed to taking care of the proposed new building. Fortunately, that new building will consume far less maintenance resources than those two existing buildings which are plagued with issues and frequent building system failures, detracting from the other maintenance needs within the community.

Q: Many residential homes are as old (or older) than the existing schools and are successfully renovated, why is that any different?

When people update their home they are not required to make it handicap accessible, install sprinkler systems, upgrade the structure’s wind/earthquake/snow capacities, install new low-flow plumbing fixtures, or ductwork for code required mechanical ventilation.

New homes are constructed with 2×6 exterior walls to meet energy code, right? Now imagine they had to fur out all of the walls in their home to meet that new code, which then meant they needed to reconfigure interior walls to ensure they had proper wheelchair turning radius, all while still maintaining the minimum room size as determined by a State authority, and needing to keep their doors open to the public. If that were the case then building a new house next to that old house doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it?

The point is: commercial building renovations/projects, and specifically those within the Educational Use Group, are held to a much higher standard. Renovations projects do exist in the MSBA’s pipeline, but are generally the result of either a historic designation or lack of space elsewhere to build upon. MSBA project data confirms that renovation is often no less expensive than constructing new, particularly as compared to Wareham’s cost effective design approach.