MADISON – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted this week to use $2.4 million from the town’s undesignated fund balance to cover a portion of spending shortfalls in the construction of a new elementary school on Mungertown Road.
Approval for the special appropriation now falls to the Board of Finance, which is scheduled to meet July 19. If approved, a special town meeting will be held July 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Campus Room A for final voter approval.
The current authorized cost for the project is $89.2 million, according to data provided by First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons at the meeting. As of May, $15.82 million of the project is being reimbursed by the state.
The shortfall of about $5.9 million occurred, Lyons said, due to data received by Madison Public Schools that enrollment would require additional classrooms that are outside the original scope of the project. That price could rise to $7.6 million, depending on final project bids.
If the $2.4 million appropriation is ultimately approved, the remaining balance would be between $3.5 million to $5.2 million.
“The thought was since this was outside the original scope, the town can actually appropriate to pay for that extra cost rather than use the fixed amount in the budgeted referendum numbers,” Lyons said. “It gives us an extra $2.4 million, but it still leaves a gap.”
The Board of Selectmen discussed possibly using excess funds from the Polson Renovation Project to cover the remaining costs.
The Polson project, designed to update Polson Middle School’s auditorium and modernize its HVAC system, was originally budgeted for $21.55 million, but is expected to have a $5 million surplus.
Lyons said if they were to move money from Polson to cover minimum costs for the new elementary school, there would still be a $1.5 million buffer for the middle school project.
Another option, she said, is to apply the $5 million surplus to a geothermal HVAC system for Polson instead of simply updating the conventional HVAC system.
“This would be a retrofit, installing a new system in Polson,” Lyons said. “That estimate came out to be about $5 million more than the conventional.”
Though a geothermal HVAC at Polson would help reduce the school’s carbon footprint, Lyons said it wouldn’t leave much wiggle room for the elementary school project.
“It’s possible to offset it with rebates and incentives, but that would be further down the road and we can’t apply those to this project budget,” she said.