The Windham School Board held a follow-up discussion on Tuesday to last week's facilities forum, mostly deliberating back and forth on how best to present facility costs to the public.
As Superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche aptly put, the district has faced overcrowding problems in the schools for a few years now. The problem, as the board saw in March when voters nixed all money-related articles, is getting the public to buy into the cost of a solution.
Much like the last go-around before Town Meeting, board members have centered their focus on the middle school as the spot where overcrowding needs to be alleviated first.
The options that the board has settled on are a new 7th and 8th grade facility on London Bridge Road or a phased addition concept at the current Windham Middle School.
School Board Chair Bruce Anderson, perceived a common cost to both models.
"Your largest (tax) impact is virtually identical in both models," he said. "It's $1.14 per thousand for phased, and $1.12 per thousand to do the new school."
Those tax impacts are for a $350,000 home, and don't take into account impacts from the high school project along with future needs for Golden Brook School and athletic fields.
Board member Stephanie Wimmer said that people want details for both projects on what tax increases they will face in the low year, and in the high year of the bond payments.
While Anderson cited similar costs for the two projects, board member Mike Joanis clarified that the whole reasoning behind a phased addition is to keep it "as inexpensive in today's dollars" as possible.
"There's no reason to do (the phased addition) unless we follow that mentality of 'what's the cheapest we can do it today,'" Joanis said.
Vice Chair Michelle Farrell said that people have felt the spike in the tax rate before and they don't like it, and they don't want to feel that huge spike again.
SAU 28 Business Administrator Adam Steel said that the high school project and the two models currently being presented to the public are very different costs.
"It's not going to be the same magnitude of the Windham High School (tax) spike in either scenario," he said. "It's not."
Wimmer expressed her fear that people are only looking at today when they consider an addition vs. a new school, and not at tomorrow.
Bond rates, according to Steel, are at a "probably conservative" 3.5 percent to 4 percent.
Putting that number to the test, he said a five-year bond on the $10 million first phase of an addition would cost $11.2 million.
That said, Steel clarified that many different types of bonds at different lengths are looked at.
The board will decide which of the two ideas to endorse during a Nov. 20 meeting.