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Hampstead board seeks $6.2m for construction

HAMPSTEAD — The school board is proposing a $6.2 million project to build new classrooms at Hampstead Central School and renovate parts of the middle school.

A warrant article to be decided by voters in March seeks a 10-year-bond to fund the first phase of renovations and construction at the two schools.

The proposal faced questions at a public hearing Tuesday, but will be debated further at the school district's deliberative session on Feb. 4.

The $6,180,520 project designed by Vermont-based Bread Loaf Corp. will involve the construction of six new classrooms at Hampstead Central School along with other renovations.

The plan also calls for renovations to the middle school library and computer lab, floors in some corridors and a new entry vestibule and outdoor canopy in the front.

Voters will also be asked to raise $133,911 to cover the interest on the first year's bond payment.

If the plan is approved, taxpayers would take the biggest hit in 2016 when the project would raise the school district's portion of the tax rate by 83 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, according to school board figures. That would mean a homeowner with property valued at $250,000 would see their annual tax bill increase by $207. The amount would decrease slightly each year over the course of the 10-year bond, dropping to 62 cents on the tax rate in 2025 – the final year of the bond.

At Tuesday's public hearing, budget committee Chairman Matthew Murphy pointed out that the final price tag on the project will be more like $7.4 million because of the $1.3 million the district will pay in interest over the life of the bond.

He said he would rather see the work done "bit by bit."

"I have a feeling the taxpayers are going to find this a little unpalatable," he said.

The additional classrooms at Hampstead Central School would replace three portable classrooms at the school and address other existing classrooms that no longer meet state standards in terms of size.

One of the portables houses music classes while another is used for a maintenance work area and "therapy space" with offices for speech, occupational, and physical therapists, school board member Gregory Hoppa said.

A third portable houses two fourth-grade classrooms.

The portables have no bathrooms, he said.

The school board is eyeing more phases for renovations in the future, but the extent of that work and the cost isn't known yet, said Natalie Gallo, school board chairman.

Gallo said the first phase proposed this year addresses the most immediate needs at both schools.

"There is, down the line, a long-term plan for renovation at both schools," she said.

She said the facilities committee that worked on the project suggested doing the work in phases to make it "more realistic and financially palatable."

But budget committee member Stephen Londrigan expressed concern about the costs for the additional phases.

"You might get to the point where phases one, two and three are more expensive than demolition," he said.

Gallo said there's been no talk of demolishing the schools and building new.

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