The Greater Lowell Technical High School's $65 million rehabilitation project has reached an 11th-hour decision. And on Dec. 11, the voters of Dracut will go the polls in a special election to decide whether the extensive renovation -- already approved by member communities Lowell, Dunstable and Tyngsboro -- will move forward or be abandoned.
It only needs a simple majority to pass.
Dracut, which sends the most students (429) to the school after Lowell (2,112), is being asked to foot $3.1 million of the estimated $15 million not being covered by the state.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to fund up to $50 million toward the cost, but that's contingent on all four member communities agreeing to pay the remainder. Without the consent of all four communities, that $50 million pledge will be withdrawn.
Dracut's loan -- in the form of a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion -- would be repaid over 20 years. The final bill, factoring in the cost of the current low interest rates, will be approximately $5 million.
According to figures supplied by GLTHS, the owner of a single-family home valued at $277,000 will pay an extra $1.17 in 2014, followed by yearly increases of $18.04, $17.64, $21.80, and $26.99. Payments gradually decrease after 2023. The added expense for taxpayers will cease after the 20-year term.
Greater Lowell is 40-year-old facility in dire need of repairs.
While some may contend the $65 million rehab
Rejecting this project doesn't mean Dracut is off the hook.
GLTHS officials estimate that $32 million will still be needed to address the building's most pressing needs, the cost of which will then be assessed to member communities as part of their yearly payments.
That means Dracut would pay significantly more for a piecemeal plan than a comprehensive one.
The technical school fills a need not available at the high school. Without GLTHS, Dracut would have to assimilate another 429 students into its current 1,150 high-school population.
We believe the rehab project is worth it for all four communities, and we urge Dracut voters on Dec. 11 to say "yes."