College pledges $5 million for Mount Greylock School District

February 17, 2016 by Ryan Kelley, News Editor

On Thursday, the College announced the formation of a $5 million fund for the Mount Greylock Regional School District, to be established in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. It will support the capital needs of Mount Greylock outside the proposed building project that the district is planning with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

In addition to the $5 million fund, in November, the College committed $200,000 for annual operating costs.

“Williams is pleased to be able to strengthen further its partnership with Mount Greylock to include a fund for the school district’s capital needs, current or future, that fall outside the proposed project with the MSBA,” President Adam Falk said in a statement published by the office of communications. “The fund is designed to support supplementary capital projects in ways that will increase educational value and reduce costs to the district and its member towns.”

Beginning with the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Mount Greylock School Committee will decide how to allocate the typical five percent payout for capital projects. Funds in the spending account and principle will also be available for projects at the discretion of the committee.

According to Assistant to the President for Community and Government Affairs James Kolesar, the College was looking to reduce costs to taxpayers for the proposed building project. The fund, which is restricted to supplementary capital projects, will not interfere with the $33.2 million the MSBA has authorized towards the estimated $64.8 million renovation project.

Taxpayers in Williamstown and Lanesborough would fund the $31.6 million difference by voting to exclude the bond debt from the Proposition 2 1/2 tax increase limit. Williamstown will vote on March 1, and Lanesborough will vote on March 15. Simple majority decides votes for school projects.

The current 56 year-old school building houses 600 students and 100 staff members from Williamstown, Lanesborough, Hancock and New Ashford. The 177,400 square foot facility, which was constructed in two phases in 1960 and 1968, was intended to serve 1200 students.

In a summary report published on Feb. 5, the district cited “building and infrastructure deficiencies, failing mechanical systems, sub-standard science labs and the absence of fire suppres-sion systems” as major concerns with the current building. According to the report, repairing the current building would cost $58 million and not qualify for MSBA reimbursement.

The proposed design features a new, three-story academic wing intended to foster department structure and less grade crossover. This academic wing would also be angled for ideal solar ori-entation in order to maximize energy efficiency. The existing auditorium and gymnasium would remain; however, both spaces would be renovated.

With Williamstown and Lanesborough preparing to vote on the project, the College wanted to release information about the $5 million fund to demonstrate support. “People are understandably looking at all the options, and we thought it was important to let them know as much as we could,” Kolesar said.

The College also announced plans to conduct ongoing research on how to reduce greenhouse emissions and utility costs for the new facility, if it is constructed. The project is already planned to match the silver standard for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

“Mount Greylock is very fortunate to now have both the prospect of financial support from the MSBA for the main building project and from Williams for other projects, which will enhance educational quality, spare our member towns these capital costs and reduce our utility bills going forward,” Mount Greylock Superintendent Doug Dias said in a statement published by the College’s Office of Communications. “This is truly an exciting moment for our school and for our community.”

Lanesborough taxpayers would pay 32.3 percent of the local cost, which amounts to $10.6 million. This would cause a tax rate increase of between $1.61 and $1.81 per $1000 of assessed property value.

Williamstown taxpayers would share 67.7 percent of the local cost, which amounts to $22.3 million. This would increase taxes from $1.42 to $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

If either town fails to pass the debt resolution, the project will fail and the Mount Greylock Regional School District will loose financial support from the MSBA.

If both towns pass the project, the new academic wing would open to students and staff in April 2018. The renovation of the auditorium and gymnasium, along with the demolition of the old academic building, would be completed by fall 2018.

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