On August 23, 2023 the Hopkinton Select Board voted to approve a project schedule and budget for the new Elmwood Elementary School not to exceed $158,427,494. Four of the 5 members voted to approve the motion, with Chair Muriel Kramer abstaining.
Elementary School Building Committee #2 Chair Jon Graziano led the presentation, which sought the Select Board’s endorsement on the timeline and budget. On Tuesday night the School Committee met to endorse the plan.
According to the project manager, Vertex, the total budget came in at $158 million. The committee expects the town to receive three reimbursements; Approximately $2 million in Mass Save rebates, $5 million in Inflation Reduction Act rebates, and between $44-46 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Hopkinton voters are expected to contribute between $105-108 million.
A Special Town Meeting will be scheduled in late October or early November, and 2/3 of voters must approve the article for the project to proceed. A special election will be held subsequently which will require a simple majority to pass the measure.
Select Board members took turns asking the committee for clarification.
“The figures look very promising and I am very much in favor of this project,” said Mary Jo Lafreniere. “But I want suggestions as to what we will do with the old building. This is the second time we’ve built a building and not known what to do with the old building,” she said, referring to the Center School.
“I am interested in knowing what the tax impact will be,” said Board Member Irfan Nasrullah. Graziano replied that the committee has been using a financial model created by former town CFO Tim O’Leary, which assumed a 3.4% borrowing rate for a 30-year term. The model predicted that the average Hopkinton home (valued at $753,300) would see an approximate $1,000 increase to their tax bill in 2027, with the amount decreasing slightly each subsequent year as the loan is paid down.
Town Manager Norman Khumalo clarified that he had received guidance from the town’s bankers that 4.5% would be a more accurate interest rate to use for the model. Although the town has not described how the project will be financed, it will likely seek to raise a municipal bond. Hopkinton maintains a AAA bond rating, the highest possible, demonstrating excellent creditworthiness.
Board Chair Muriel Kramer asked Graziano to clarify how the MSBA timelines overlay with the Elmwood project’s timelines. Graziano stated that the MSBA must receive an endorsed plan by August 31 for their board to review prior to an October 25 acceptance, thus the urgency on seeking the Select Board’s approval.
“We are sticking to an aggressive timeline, and (an endorsement tonight) would allow us to have a detailed design developed in December,” said Graziano. “This helps keep construction on schedule.” The project is expected to break ground in June 2025 and be completed by January 2028.
Kramer was uneasy with the budget. “This kind of capital step absolutely changes the ability for some people to stay here, some people to move in here. It absolutely changes the game for some people,” she said.
Board Member Amy Ritterbusch introduced the motion to approve the language as suggested by the ESBC-2. Members Shahidul Mannan, Nasrullah, Lafreniere, and Ritterbusch all voted in favor, while Kramer abstained. “I don’t feel the comfort yet. But I am working toward a yes. I appreciate the work of the committee and the need and the goal, but I need to know how this plays financially.”
Khumalo committed to providing the Select Board and town with an updated financial model by the end of September.