BILLERICA -- When Hajjar Elementary School parent Jason Blodgett heard Town Manager John Curran's worst-case scenario for a new high school Monday night, Blodgett thought the worst-case scenario was a good deal for residents.
"It seems reasonable to me," said Blodgett on Monday, after hearing Curran's prediction of the average Billerica homeowner paying $215 per year for the new high school and Parker School projects.
"I'm only one taxpayer, though, so I hope the others agree," added Blodgett, whose two kids would attend the new high school if it comes to fruition.
The new high-school project highlighted Monday's town finance meeting, which updated residents on a range of town projects and initiatives.
Curran said it was important to give residents a sense of the town's direction, which is positive with a comprehensive plan in place to invest in the town's future, he stressed.
"The message we're trying to get across is, we're trying to plan everything so we're not going to hurt roadway, sewer and water projects," Curran said. "There is a place for all these things in the future. We're taking on a big school, but we're not going to push other projects down the road."
Using a worst-case scenario projection model, "so that way you don't get yourself in trouble," Curran told the few dozen attendees that the new high school would cost between $132 million and $160 million.
Billerica would receive a 52 percent reimbursement rate from the state and a 4.5 percent interest rate, which will likely be a lot lower based on the town's AA+ bond rating, Curran said.
Based on these assumptions, the average homeowner would annually pay $215 or less for 28 years. The average home in Billerica is valued at $309,000.
"I think the town is in such a great financial place for this project," said Katie Mahoney, vice president of Building Billerica's Future, a political-action committee for the new high school.
"The town's finances are well-managed, and hopefully my kids get to enter a new high school," Mahoney said.
While most of the attendees were regulars and are active in town politics, there were some new faces in the crowd, like Blodgett. Selectman Andrew Deslaurier said it was good to see some people he hadn't seen before.
"We've been much more aggressive informing people about projects, and it was great to see some young folks out here," Deslaurier said. "People can't be intimidated by government. We still have a lot of work to do, though."
Taxpayers can see the personal impact of a new high school by typing in their address on the town's website. Here's the calculator -- http://town.billerica.ma.us/324/Schools-Tax-Impact-Calculator.
Last week the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved Billerica Memorial High School to conduct a feasibility study, moving the high-school project into the capital pipeline and marking the first commitment of funding from the MSBA.
Town Meeting and Billerica residents in general could vote on a proposal in fall 2015, with the school opening in 2018, but those are only estimates at this point, Superintendent of Schools Tim Piwowar has said.
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