Tax impact outlined for $210 million South Burlington school upgrade

South Burlington High School
The South Burlington High School would be replaced as part of a $210 million upgrade.

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Residents would see a sizable tax increase should voters approve a bond in March to fund a new $209.6 million combined high school and middle school.

School district officials said Thursday a $350,000 homeowner without income sensitivity would see an average tax increase of $1,500 per year over the 32 year life of the bond. Those with household incomes of less than $136,500, about half of those who live in South Burlington, would qualify for a reduction.

The median household income in South Burlington is $66,000, and someone with a household income of $70,000 would see an average tax increase of $438. See the district spreadsheet here showing how residents can expect to pay in taxes. 

School Board Clerk Bridget Burkhardt said the tax figures incorporate all principal and interest payments, which are estimated to total $345 million over 32 years. 

The district is working with cost estimators to finalize budget plans ahead of the school’s board vote 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. If the board approves the bond, it will be placed on the March Town Meeting ballot. 

The estimates don’t take into account any changes to South Burlington’s real estate grand list, which Burkhardt said is not realistic because of planned residential developments across the city and an expected population growth over the next several years. 

“We tried where we could to be very conservative,” she said at a press conference in the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Library.

Both schools have outdated infrastructure and overcrowded classrooms, and don’t meet accessibility requirements. 

Cost and tax estimates came after years of planning. The school board unanimously approved holding a vote to build a new combined school in June after weighing options including whether to renovate existing buildings.

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“This option allows the district to continue to provide the quality public education our citizens value, to position our programming for the next 50 to 60 years, all while minimizing any disruption for students and staff during this transition,” School Board Chair Elizabeth Fitzgerald said Thursday.

South Burlington High School Principal Patrick Burke said the current buildings don’t allow students to work together and that makes it difficult for teachers to share resources.

“Our middle and high school design is unfortunately conducive to isolation and division,” Burke said.

The new configuration will have separate entrances, classrooms and community spaces, but share infrastructure, a kitchen and a corridor which will join the two schools together to share resources as they already do.

“There’ll be no more middle schoolers crossing a parking lot in their shorts in the middle of winter with their band instruments,” Burkhardt added.

The current plan calls for a 405,000-square-foot combined school — an overall increase of about 100,000 square feet. A separate recreation center for school sports with an indoor 200 meter competition track will also be built.

The new buildings are planned to be erected where the schools’ baseball and football fields are currently located.

Dore and Whittier architectural firm has been working with the district on the project. The plans call for the construction of the new school to begin in the summer of 2021 and would be completed in 2024. 

The current schools, Tuttle Middle School and SBHS, will be demolished, and roadways, parking lots and sports fields will replace the buildings by 2025.

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Jacob Dawson

About Jacob

Jacob Dawson is VTDigger's Burlington intern. Jacob is a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where he studied journalism and political science. While at UNH, Jacob was an editor and writer for the student newspaper while also serving as the news director for the student radio station. Jacob interned for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire in the summer of 2018. He graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in 2015 and is originally from Williston, Vermont.

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