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Minuteman building panel wants to hear from you

The committee has been working on a feasibility study with the state School Building Authority since 2009. It has also examined other options in the event state-supported options are rejected.

Results of the survey will be used to help decide on a preferred option. That option, in turn, will be reviewed by the state authority.

Minuteman school project: Study the background

The cost to rebuild a Minuteman High School is steep -- $79 million to $106 million, depending on the option its building committee chooses. But what will it cost if all communities don't agree to sign on and there is no state funding?

Residents should pay attention to the published sidebar to the story, referred to as "The Do-Nothing Option." It's a large .PDF here >> 

Arlington, which sends the most students to Minuteman out of 16 member districts, would pay a goodly sum for a rebuilt high school, but clear estimates are not yet known. More precise numbers are expected by June.

Meanwhile, discussion on the Arlington email list following YourArlington's Feb. 10 publication of the first publicly reported cost estimates for the Lexington high school project has drawn the usual complaints and questions. They include: How can we get out this?

To address this, respondents have included Precinct 4 Town Meeting member Wes Beal. He quotes School Committee member Paul Schlichtman, who once sat on the Minuteman board. In a post published with permission, Beal writes, quoting Richard Damon:

"The problem we run into with Minuteman is that its governance is set up as equal power of each community, but the costs are distributed by attendance. A member town sending 1 student pays thousands and gets the same vote as Arlington which has to pay millions. Even though the agreement requires a super-majority to approve the budget, this can occur with towns paying well under 50% of the budget."

I'll try to spell this out some more, repeating what Richard said, in case it helps anyone out there grasp the issue better.

There are 16 member towns in the Minuteman district.

The decisions on how much to spend to operate and improve the Minuteman school are made by a board where each town gets one vote.

The costs to operate the Minuteman are divided up according to how many students a town sends to the school.

From Paul Schlichtman's blog post on this topic last year, "Half of the towns, 8 towns, combined send a total of 54 students to the school."

(read more here >>)

Putting the situation another way, also from Paul's blog, consider that "Currently, Dover has one student in the school, one vote on the school committee, and their one vote for a $38,000 assessment is equal to our one vote for a $3.8 million assessment."

A small minority of communities with a vote on how money is spent pay a large majority of the costs.

Changes to the agreement that would correct this issue require a successful vote of the same board, and not surprisingly, a majority of the 16 towns believe the current situation is just fine the way it is.

Arlington deciding this really isn't tolerable anymore so it's time to leave the Minuteman district, also requires a successful vote of this board, and a majority of the 16 towns think Arlington's money works rather nicely, buys a lot of nice stuff, and don't want to lose it.


Feb. 16, 2015: Selectmen discuss Minuteman building plan; one expresses doubt on enrollment forecast

Feb. 10, 2015: First look at cost of a new Minuteman High: $79m to $106m


This viewpoint was published Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, and updated Feb. 26.

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