Credit: Town of Middletown

By Matt Sheley, Town of Middletown

The Town of Middletown is working hard to lower the costs of a new proposed middle-high school.

Several bills sponsored by local legislators are currently before the General Assembly for consideration. If all are okayed upstate, Middletown taxpayers stand to save tens of millions on the price of the combined grade 6-12 building north of Gaudet Middle School.

Based on the existing schedule, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said the town should have a concrete answer on the fate of the six pieces of legislation around the beginning of summer.

That way, he said Middletown residents will have the best information about the ambitious bond proposal when they go to the voting booth, likely on Nov. 7. 

“We really appreciate all the work our legislators have already put into this,” Brown said this week. “There are a lot of moving pieces here and these bills work hard to save our taxpayers real dollars and help make this new building the special place we want it to be.”

Earlier this year in anticipation of a May 2 special election, the town released a projected tax impact statement. That detailed document outlined the anticipated costs to every taxpayer from the $190 million bond, should it be approved by voters.

The figures showed the median homeowner in Middletown would have to pay about $2 a day for the bond, or about the price of a cup of coffee.

Last week, the Town Council decided to push the date for the special election back on the calendar, citing concerns about the “rushed” nature of the proposal and the uncertainty about how much the project will cost taxpayers. 

Brown said the town was hitting the reset button now with those tax impact numbers. With 

the legislation upstate in line to help Middletown taxpayers, Brown said the town would recalculate the tax figures once the fate of each of the bills was clear.

That legislation includes:

  • House Bill No. 5792 and Senate Bill No. 0454 restore the base reimbursement for school construction work to 40 percent and extend the deadline for the state reimbursement bonus program.
  • House Bill No. 6111 and Senate Bill No. 0455 provides a 5 percent funding bonus for school building projects that boost energy efficiency and also moves up the reimbursement payments from the state.
  • House Bill No. 5526 and Senate Bill No. 0206 that permits Middletown to borrow $190 million for the construction of a new middle-high school.

Brown said in addition to the stated goals, the proposed bills accomplish a number of other objectives for Middletown if approved. 

They should enable the town to get more bids for building the new schools and employ best  management practices. He said that alone could reduce the price tag of the schools by 8 to 10 percent. The bills also help lead to less fluctuation with the town’s taxes, lead to a greater reimbursements and reduce the overall project costs.

In November 2021, an independent architectural firm reported $190 million in upgrades were needed to the district’s four existing schools before a ceiling or wall were opened. That included asbestos abatement, air quality improvements, security upgrades and other problems identified in their lengthy report. To review that document, visit online.

To help come up with the best plan possible, the School Building Committee hired Collier International as project managers, with the DBVW and HMFH architectural firms providing assistance. Educational planning expert Manuel Cordero was also brought in to help design the new building. 

According to the current proposal, the new middle-high school would combine two schools into one on property north of Gaudet Middle School. 

The way the 231,000-square-foot building was laid out, grades 6-8 and 9-12 would be completely separate and not occupy any of the same spaces at the same time. For economy, they would both access places like the cafeteria, auditorium and gyms and athletic fields, but at different times of the day.

Fourth and fifth grade students now housed in the Gaudet Learning Academy would be relocated into the existing Valley Road high school building, which would be transformed into a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade early learning center.

For the latest information about the project, visit online. The volunteer School Building Committee is also providing regular updates online.

In the next few weeks, Cordero is expected to release a community input survey about what residents and businesspeople would like to see in the new school. He has already spoken to teachers, students and other building users and getting feedback from a wider audience is an important part of the process.

“I think one thing that some people forget is we’ve all had that teacher who inspired us to do more, to do better,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t provided them with one of the most important tools they need to do their jobs — a healthy, inspiring learning environment.”

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