By NEIL ZOLOT
WAKEFIELD – The Massachusetts School Building Authority paid for over half of eligible costs of the Galvin Middle School in 2012, but that will not be the case for the new Wakefield Memorial High School.
“Whatever your base rate is, you get about half of that,” Lynn Stapleton of Owner’s Project Managers LeftField said in reference to calculations that will put the state’s allocation at 26.16%.
A Preferred Schematic Design outline dated June 15 puts the cost at $219,447,036. It also reads, “The District will work with the MSBA to determine a mutually agreeable methodology to differentiate eligible costs from ineligible costs.”
A public forum power point presentation from April used $220 million, divided into $163 million in town costs and $57 million as the MSBA share. The local tax impact of the $163 million is $1.56 per $1,000 of assessed residential property value based on level debt service for a 30 year bond.
“The reimbursement rate is not a percentage that can be simply and straightforwardly applied to all costs,” Stapleton explained. “Instead, the full reimbursement rate is applied only to remaining costs after all the various caps are applied to construction and soft costs. The remaining costs after caps are termed the eligible costs for reimbursement.
“In addition to the caps, any costs unique to a town’s school not part of the MSBA guidelines for spaces and square footage are paid by the town, 100%. Once all these factors are accounted for, the effective reimbursement rate generally falls around 50% of the stated reimbursement rate.”
A July 2016 community memo from Save Amherst’s Small Schools explains the reimbursement rate as “based on community income, property wealth and poverty factors. This maximum is then decreased based on certain caps on items and unapproved or ineligible portions of the design and building process that gets to the effective reimbursement rate.
“The project scope and budget includes a figure called the maximum facilities grant, the maximum amount from the MSBA. No town ever actually receives that amount, as there are always expenses incurred during construction that have not been anticipated and are not eligible for MSBA funding.”
“Architects Symmes Maini McKee and Associates (SMMA) and LeftField are experts at this and we’ll follow their lead,” School Superintendent Doug Lyons said. “They’ll work to maximize that number, whatever it will be.”
The new school, expected to open September 2026 if approved by townspeople, will be on the site of the football field/track behind the current school at 60 Farm St. After its completion, the current school will be demolished and a new football field/track will be built in front of it, right on Farm.
The current timeline is for construction to begin in mid-2023 and finished by in the spring of 2026, with the building ready for occupancy that September. That year will also see the start of demolishing the current building, with construction of the football field/track to follow.