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With or Without High School Referendum, Costs May be the Same to Residents

Residents talk about school renovation; Superintendent, Mayor addresses cost issues.

Regardless of whether the Naugatuck High School referendum passes, renovation will be required to bring Naugatuck High School into code, school officials said.

"Even if the referendum fails, the plans without the renovation-to-new could still be as high as $46 million,” Mayor Mezzo said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “If we just do code work and maintenance, the cost will be up to $46 million (about $22 million will be unreimbursed by the state.) If we renovate-as-new, we could receive a waiver from the state that could result in up to a 75 percent reimbursement. The existing building waiver could cost residents as little as $25 million and we would be getting $81 million in renovations.”

 Naugatuck mother Kim Pruchnicki has three children, two of whom will not benefit from the passing of the high school renovation referendum vote and one who will.

 Pruchnicki believes, "If you want to improve your town, you have to improve your school. I went to Naugatuck High School and my husband went here, too. The school needs these renovations. It's important for our children. If you look at towns with good schools, they are successful towns. People move into towns based on the school systems. People will move into an area with good schools, and businesses will too. A good school starts a chain reaction and our town needs that."

 Not all of Naugatuck's residents feel the same way. A resident of Naugatuck for 34 years, Augusto DaSilva has only grown children. He said he would not support the referendum, fearing it would mean higher taxes. "No more taxes. No! No! No! I don't believe the schools will effect the property values."

 Whether or not the high school renovation will effect property values seems to accompany the thoughts of many of Naugatuck's residents, but Rebecca Regan adds another thought, “We already pay taxes for all of the other stuff in town, we should pay for this for our children. Why not support education?"

"Lower income people would love to put their children in private schools but we can't afford it, this renovation would cost us so much less. Why not put the money into the schools,” she asked.

Schools Superintendent John Tindall-Gibson discussed the American Disabilities Act and code issues that make the renovation imperative. “They don't make you update the building as the law comes into effect but whenever you do any renovation, then you have to become compliant. However, the Fire Marshall has the authority to demand changes.”

 "It makes sense to provide a 21st century education to our students, but it also makes sense economically. If we just make repairs to come into code, those costs are not reimbursed by the state. In the long run, we will have to spend more if the referendum does not pass,” the superintendent said.

Mezzo said that in his opinion, the time to do this project is now. “Right now we have historically low interest rates, low construction costs, a low bond rate, and our bonded indebtedness is low,” Mezzo said, adding that "on top of that, state reimbursement is likely to be as high as it will ever be, as high as 75 percent."

To see photos of the code violations, read Tour of Naugy High School Shows Fire, ADA and Satefy Violations

Jim October 26, 2011 at 11:47 PM
This plan makes sense. To those people who are not happy about spending money on a building just because it is a school needs to realize that whether it is a school, a town hall or any other municipal building, to spend money without the state giving us the full amount of reimbursement that we would get under current law would be stupid from a business and financial point of view. That is exactly what will happen if this referendum fails. I admit when first hearing of the price tag on this project I too was a bit skeptical. Then after learning the true scope of what it will cost in the long run it is the right thing to do and the timing could not be better either. But to those who are suffering from sticker shock, remember this cost is spread out over twenty years and is going to be paid with bonds which are historically low...perhaps as low as you will ever see.
Steve Elson October 27, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Same thoughts here. Unfortunately there are people who will vote against this now because it will cost them $100 only to be forced to pay $200 later (numbers used as an example). Just think of the discussion in a few years, if we do not approve this, when the state reimbursement is lower, interest rates are higher and we are forced to make upgrades due to the deteriorating condition of the high school. Will the opponents of the current proposal be saying "thank goodness we didn't spend less a few years ago"? No one likes to pay more taxes, but this project is worth it and will benefit Naugatuck. I had my doubts at first, but after examining the facts and looking at the impact this will have on Naugatuck, I will fully support this project.
Lynn October 27, 2011 at 02:26 AM
J. Tindall Gibson - why did it take so long for us taxpayers to be advised of the dire repairs needed at the high school???
Steve Elson October 27, 2011 at 03:47 AM
Lynn, please, there have been problems at NHS and other Naugatuck schools for many years. It is due to gradual decline after many years of use: Salem School is 109 years old, Hillside is almost 100, several other schools have not been upgraded since they were built in the 1950 and 60s. NHS has over a 1,200 students and is in use 12 to 15 hours a day for most of the year. As is typical here, the attitude to "save money" or put repairs off to "next year" has resulted in a need to spend a lot of money now to correct significant issues.
Donna Candella October 27, 2011 at 10:58 AM
Steve, How do you know how much it will cost? The Mayor says a lot of "could"s and "up to". What is the worse case scenario for the taxpayers? Does the state require that the ball fields be redone and the track that was just redone (at tax payers expense so we wouldn't have to pay more later) needs to be moved to qualify for the state assistance? I have no problem with bringing the school up to date or even better than that. I have a problem that when the schools are screaming for more money, we are spending it on renovating ball fields. I think we need to do the necessary work to fall within the guidelines of the program, but watch the excessiveness of this project. Nobody has an unlimited amount of funds and I think that this project is over the top. Scale it back and then I will believe this is the responsible course of action.
STAR October 27, 2011 at 12:03 PM
The morale of the kids, the reputation of the school and town, the ability to give our kids every chance includes new ball fields. The piecemeal people have seen is exactly what will continue to happen if it isn't done all at once. Kids need sports, especially in high school. It keeps them off the street and in a wholesome lifestyle. They are the future of Naugatuck. The costs may sound vague, but from what it said in the article its all six of one, half a dozen of the other. Did you see the pictures in this mornings photos of athletics? I wouldn't want my kid taking a shower and turning on the lights down there.
Lynn October 27, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Steve - all I asked is why US taxpayers were not advised of all these important derogatory building ssues at the high school... Actually, I feel it is kind of ironic that the school has been falling apart (and at times the kids state scores were poor ) yet the John Tindall overspent his budget by how much??? Of which US taxpayers bailed out his overspending!!!) And lets get plenty of estimates for the construction work which needs to be done, cause despite the economy, construction workers for schools get a great amount of money per hour in this current economy's woes!!! And Star - any renovations at the high school "keeps them off the street and in a wholesome lifestyle"... Punk kids will hang on the streets no matter how much money is put into nice buildings - actually they might even trash it!!! I was turned off by an email regarding a Californian teacher who has seen Federal funds put into schools which kids trash... I, used to be a property manager, can attest to YES KIDS degrading property that used to look nice. Kids can actually become active in helping raise funds for new ball fields, etc. How rewarding is that?
Lynn October 29, 2011 at 01:09 AM
All in all, yes, lets renovate the high school. But these critical issues regarding the buildings condition should have been brought up a while ago - gee I wonder if the reason they weren't brought up before cause the NHS budget was overspent!!!
Rocky Vitale October 29, 2011 at 02:06 AM
The budget shortfall had to do with major swings in unpredictable insurance, nothing to do with facilities. These issues have been discussed for the last ten years. Certain people didn't want to listen and certain mayors were only interested in getting re-elected, not telling it like it is. The BOE budget is woefully short in funding for upkeep of normal wear and tear. Major building issues are in the Town budget in other areas or a reserve account.

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