EASTHAM — Voters in Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster will be asked to spend another $38.1 million to renovate Nauset Regional High School at a district-wide election on Jan. 10, 2023.
Following construction bid openings, which revealed that the renovation that voters approved last year at $131.8 million is actually going to cost at least $161.2 million, the Nauset Regional School Committee voted on Nov. 3 to go back to voters to approve the borrowing of more money.
In the coming weeks, the committee will explain its proposal to the select boards in each district town, and the exact amounts to be borrowed by each town will be determined, said Chris Easley, chair of the regional school committee.
The renovation of the 1970s-era multi-building campus on Cable Road in Eastham passed in all four district towns in March 2021 with the total price set at $131.8 million, including $104.9 million for the actual construction. After spending a year working on the final design and sending out the bids, Nauset school officials faced an unpleasant surprise in October when the general and subcontractor bids were opened. The true construction costs were 22.5 percent over budget.
Price hikes related to inflation, the war in Ukraine, and the pandemic created a perfect storm, Easley said.
Shaving off $30 million would “mean removing about 64,000 feet of space, fully one-third of the project,” according to a written statement from the school building committee.
The additional amount being requested is $8.1 million more than the construction overage itself. The additional funds are for contingencies and the purchase of 37 modular trailers rather than the 16 that had been budgeted.
“We have spent funds that were not budgeted,” Easley told the Independent on Nov. 2.
Nauset Supt. Brooke Clenchy explained in the written statement that the additional $8.1 million is to cover higher-than-expected costs of furniture, equipment, and technology, as well as testing and inspection, moving services, and the builder’s risk insurance.
A “yes” vote on Jan. 10 should, at least, keep delays on the three-year project to a minimum, according to the announcement.
Brait Builders, the lowest bidder, has been selected as general contractor and will begin work by the end of January. Starting in February, the gym and cafeteria will be moved to temporary locations, and students will begin moving into mobile classrooms. The building project is expected to meet its original completion date, which was estimated to be between November 2025 and February 2026.
That plan now depends on a majority of voters assenting on Jan. 10. In this election, that means a majority of the combined voters district-wide. In other words, there is no town-by-town veto power. This was the process used in March 2021 when the original renovation project passed overwhelmingly. At the time, voters in all four of the district’s towns approved, although the Brewster Finance Committee opposed the plan.
Sixty percent voted for the renovation in Brewster; 74 percent approved in Orleans; 79 percent voted in favor in Eastham; and 89 percent favored it in Wellfleet.
Costs borne by each town depend on the number of students from that town enrolled in the district. Brewster, which sends the most students, now assumes 48 percent of the cost, Eastham 20 percent, Orleans 19 percent, and Wellfleet 13 percent.
The property tax impact calculated in 2021 for the project was $76.59 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value in Brewster; $42.66 in Eastham; $31 in Orleans and $35.71 in Wellfleet.
The tax impact also depends on the borrowing term. A 30-year note would have people paying less but for longer and with higher interest. Town administrators have indicated they would prefer a 25-year loan, Easley said. The school district will do whatever the towns prefer, he said.