How much will taxpayers be asked to pay for new Burlington school?

How much will BHS cost?
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - How much will the Burlington School District spend on a new high school and how much will they borrow for the project? The school board answered that question at their meeting Wednesday night.

They needed to make a decision on what to bond for in order for the project to adhere to the timeline set out to get the question in front of Burlington voters for the general election.

In a unanimous vote, the school board is ready to now ask voters to allow them to borrow up to $165 million. That amount was suggested to the district by contract advisers saying it would make the most sense for the $190 million school project. For the average homeowner in the city, that would equate to around $800 a year.

The Burlington City Council will be voting on Monday whether to approve the bond amount, just two days ahead of the last possible date to submit questions for the November ballot.

The district stresses that they have worked hard to find a school that’s the best value for the taxpayers while also giving students a great place to learn for decades to come.

“It hasn’t been decided lightly and there’s this balance between trying to get this wonderful new asset for the city and being fiscally prudent,” said Commissioner Kendra Sowers. “We’re Burlington taxpayers ourselves, so we know what the cost is.”

The overwhelming majority of people we spoke to Wednesday said they will support the new school.

“I have three grown children, they all went to Burlington High School, the one right here. It was a good, great school and it was really convenient. So, yeah, I would go for it,” said Stephen Goldberg of Burlington.

“We have excellent schools here, that’s one of the reasons I moved back to have my kids here, and we have to get it done, we have to. My son is entering high school this year and he’ll be downtown, so he will be OK but for some kids, that’s really hard and our kids deserve it,” said Melissa Mintzer of Burlington.

“Going to school at an old Macy’s is not the best learning environment. They said they are going to fix up the walls because it was way too loud, the walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling, so it was hard, especially for the teachers to hear over all the chaos in the other rooms,” said Yasmin Farley, a rising sophomore at BHS.

That average tax impact of around $800 a year could come down due to new laws around pupil weighting formulas in the city which could bring down the taxes.

The district says if this ends up failing, they will bring back the bond in March. However, that will jeopardize the construction seasons of the project and could set them back a year, and that the Macy’s lease does not last that long.

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