The Elementary School Review Group of the League of Women Voters of Amherst (LWVA) met to compare our LWVA positions with the information and materials on the project’s schematic design and construction costs. The Group also reviewed the minutes of the Elementary School Building and Finance Committee and attended several of its meetings as well as the January public forums.
Two of the Review members met with the Steering Committee on March 6, 2023 and presented their report and were available to answer questions and concerns. Following the presentation, the Steering Committee of the LWVA voted to recommend support for the new Fort River Elementary School Building and debt exclusion.
This vote was taken after careful consideration of a thorough report written by the School Review Group which recommended support for the proposed new elementary school building based on our Education and Schools and Energy Policies. If you are not familiar with our program book or it has been a few years since you last looked at it, we highly recommend you review it, especially the sections which relate to this project. (LWV of Amherst Program Book, 2019 ed., pp. 11-15).
The LWVA Steering Committee supports the school project for the following reasons: 1) The design meets the requirements of Amherst’s educational programming. 2) It complies with town By-laws. 3) It will be all-electric (not dependent on fossil fuels) and on the path to achieve LEED Gold status with an anticipated $250,000 in energy savings yearly. And 4) this school project is expected to be among the first net zero public schools in the state.
The Steering Committee understands construction will depend on the willingness of a majority of voters to approve an estimated $55 million property tax debt exclusion, currently estimated to average $478 per household. We strongly urge the Town of Amherst to mitigate this tax burden on residents. Voters must understand that a no vote means the Town of Amherst will need to pay for maintenance and energy cost upgrades for the 50-year-old Fort River and Wildwood Schools because the current schools fail to meet educational, classroom needs and health standards for the current student population. Voting no could mean another decade before Amherst will have a funding opportunity from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). This current project would receive a grant from the MSBA estimated to be approximately $43 million of the $98 million total cost.
The Steering Committee would like to thank the School Review Group: Kay Fite, Maija Lillya, Peter Lillya and Adrienne Terrizzi, Chair for their thorough review and their timely recommendations. Over the next two months the Steering Committee will be publicly advocating for this project.
We encourage our members to reach out to us with any questions.
Please go to the polls on May 2nd to VOTE YES for this new school and debt exclusion.
Sincerely, The Steering Committee of the LWVA