NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 4, 2014

Pentucket poised to get state aid to fix school

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY – The Pentucket Regional School District closed out last week with good news on Friday from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen was informed that the state’s school funding authority had voted to approve up to $732,493 in funding for a proposed roof and boiler replacement project at the middle school.

“The total estimated project value is approximately $1.7 million but a more definitive number will emerge after the design and bidding phase,” said Pentucket Business Manager Greg Labrecque when reached on Friday. The project includes replacing the school’s heating system and a portion of the roof that covers its auditorium.

The maximum grant amount reflects a state reimbursement rate of 50.79 percent of approved project costs. While it doesn’t include funding for owner or construction contingency costs, if the Pentucket project is deemed eligible for additional reimbursements in this regard, the grant could increase to as much as $768,108, stated John McCarthy, executive director of the MSBA in his letter Mulqueen. The final grant amount is subject to a review and audit of all project costs.

Under the terms of the MSBA’s Accelerated Repair Program, the school district now has 90 days to gain approval for the necessary appropriations from the three Pentucket communities, Groveland, Merrimac, and West Newbury. The towns must also affirm “the cost, site, type, scope, and timeline for the proposed project,” the letter states. Once these approvals are in place, a Project Funding Agreement between MSBA and the Pentucket District will be executed and requests for project reimbursement can proceed.

Labrecque has already proactively requested space holders on Special Town Meeting warrants for later this spring in the three district towns. If these requests are approved by voters, he can begin the borrowing process immediately in order to allow for completion of the project during summer recess.

Each town would be required to pay a yearly capital assessment on its portion of the amount borrowed after the state’s reimbursement is deducted. The assessment rate would be adjusted annually based on a town’s student population. According to Labrecque the current percentage rate of assessment is 37.491 percent in Groveland, 36.416 percent in Merrimac, and 26.093 percent in West Newbury.

“The actual amounts will still be based on the amount we need to borrow, plus interest, over 20 years,” Labrecque said. A ballpark figure for the annual assessments might be a low of around $18,000 for West Newbury and $25,000 for Groveland and Merrimac, Labrecque guessed, but stressed, “of course these are just preliminary estimates.”

Noting that the state will only partner on one project at a time, Mulqueen said the MSBA approval is one more positive step toward the kinds of improvements to Pentucket’s educational facilities that are integral to its “world class agenda.”

“Each town has boldly undertaken improvements in our elementary schools. We are on the cusp of announcing plans to begin the improvements to our athletic complex on the regional campus. Upgrading the middle school’s heating system and components of its roof will clear the way for us to focus on the high school,” he said.

“Pentucket’s rapid improvement to facilities is an indicator of our community’s commitment to quality education,” Mulqueen said.