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New Burlington High School cost exceeds bonding capacity

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 6:07 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Potential money problems for Burlington’s proposed new high school have school officials looking for new sources of funding and considering scaling back the project.

Ahead of the Burlington School District school board meeting Tuesday, documents released reveal the school district can only bond for $150 million, far below the $210 million estimate to build a new Burlington High School and Burlington Tech Center.

The preliminary breakdown of costs for the project includes $147 million for building and site construction, $32 million for other soft-cost construction fees and $29 million to tear down the old school.

That leaves a $60 million gap between those costs and what the city says is available for bonding capacity.

The district does have some other funding sources, including an additional $25 million from a previous capital plan and other funds, leaving a $35 million gap.

So the school board is also looking at cost-cutting, such as relocating aspects of the technical center to the Burlington airport. But other cuts might also be needed to fully make up the shortfall.

Last year, the city said there would be no problem with the bonding capacity and ability to bond for the school district.

I reached out to numerous school and city officials for an explanation of why bonding capacity is now a problem, but so I did not receive an answer before this story was published.

Of course, whatever amount of money the district decides to bond for will have to be approved by the voters. That question is scheduled to be on the ballot in November.

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