DRACUT -- The fate of Greater Lowell Technical High School's $65.3 million renovation and addition falls on the voters of Dracut who go to the polls on Dec. 11 to vote on a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion to fund its share of the project.
Town Meeting voted to approve its $3.1 million share, which totals $4.6 million, with financing costs over 20 years, contingent upon the results of a special election requesting a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion.
A debt exclusion is different from an override in that the tax rate only rises for as long as it takes to repay the debt, whereas with an override, the increase is permanent.
Two Dracut parents, Tony Archinski and Rene "Butch" Dion Jr., are leading the campaign to ensure that the project passes by creating the Friends of the Greater Lowell Technical High School.
Archinski, a retired Dracut police lieutenant whose daughter is in the Medical Assisting program at the school, said he got involved with the effort because he supports the school and what it has done for his daughter.
"I'm just a parent that wants to help with a good project," he said.
Dion, president of the Friends group, is a 1984 graduate of the school. He serves on the school's Graphic Arts advisory board and was recently elected to the School Council. His son is a sophomore in the Automotive Technology program at the school.
Within a couple of days of organizing, 15 to 20 parents have joined Archinski and Dion who say they
The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to reimburse the school district $50 million for the project. The remaining $15.3 million is left for the four district communities to fund.
Tyngsboro has agreed to pay $1.3 million, Dunstable has agreed to $450,000, and Lowell has agreed to pay $10.1 million, to be funded under each community's operating budget.
If Dracut voters don't give their support, MSBA's funding will be withdrawn.
But the repairs still need to be done, school officials say.
Aspects of the project that address the building's critical needs total about $32 million, which will be paid for by the district communities under the school's state-mandated assessment formula.
For example, with the MSBA funding, Dracut would pay $3.1 million. Without it, Dracut would be responsible for paying $6.6 million.
In the peak year of financing, in fiscal 2018, a Dracut homeowner whose home is valued at $277,129 would see an increase of $26.99 in their tax bill.
The scope of the project includes:
n Replacing the roof and skylights; exterior windows and doors; metal siding; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units; plumbing and electrical systems; sprinklers; and fire-alarm systems.
n Renovating science labs.
n Adding a cafeteria.
About 1,080 students attend Dracut High School, while Dracut sent 441 students to Greater Lowell Tech last year.
Asking voters to raise their taxes above the 2 1/2 percent levy is a tough sell, but Archinski and Dion are optimistic.
Archinski said residents told him the town would never vote for a debt exclusion to build a police station and library, which passed overwhelmingly in 2002.
"I'm a firm believer that good people with good ideas produce great results," he said. "We have a lot of good people working this project. As tough as it is to accept a slight increase in taxes, I think Dracut people are smart enough to realize the benefits that we'll reap from having a pretty close to brand-new regional school."
In May 2011, Dracut voters approved a Proposition 2 1/2 override to fund a $60 million renovation to Dracut High School. The MSBA reimbursement rate was 60 percent for that project. Greater Lowell Tech would receive 76 percent reimbursement.
Archinski said the debt schedule for both the high school and the police station and library cost taxpayers about $300, a year. In comparison, the biggest increase taxpayers will see for the Greater Lowell Tech project is an average of $26.99.
He said if voters approve the project, the town's investment in its buildings will be complete. Though Greater Lowell Tech is in Tyngsboro, the building is owned by all four district communities.
Supporters argue that even if voters don't have children or grandchildren who attend the school, they should support the project because graduates of the school often remain in the community, working to serve the public as carpenters, electricians, nurses and other professionals.
The Friends group meets Tuesday evenings at the Dracut Historical Society.
Dion has started a Facebook group "Friends of GLTHS," which has almost 300 members, and a website at sites.google.com/site/friendsofglths.
The group hopes to raise $5,000 to $7,000 to have two mailing campaigns in an effort to get the vote out.
Members are planning a fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 30, at Lenzi's Millhouse in Dracut.
Follow Sarah Favot on Twitter @sarahfavot.