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