Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School voting is March 5

TAUNTON — If voters say ‘yes’ to the $305 million project raze and rebuild the Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School, other votes may be looming to pay for it.

The $305 million figure grabs the headlines, but taxpayers of the seven participating cities and towns would be on the hook for just under 60% of that, or $180 million. The rest would be paid for through a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, funded by taxpayer dollars from across the Commonwealth.

Located in Taunton, BP serves Taunton, Berkley, Bridgewater, Dighton, Middleboro, Raynham and Rehoboth. The proposal is to demolish the current cramped and outdated BP facility and construct a new state-of-the-art school building.

Municipalities would have to decide how to increase their shares. Each municipality has a different financial picture, but one likely outcome is another vote by residents to take on more debt beyond the state’s 2.5% legal limit. This option is called a debt foreclosure. Some of the money could come from the general fund of each city and municipality. There are also other financing options, such as bonding.

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How to pay for it was the tricky question that Taunton City Council Chairman Phil Duarte sought to shed light on Tuesday by bringing in the city’s top bean counters.

Impact on municipal services without debt exclusion

Chief Financial Officer Patrick Dello Russo and Director of Budget Gill Enos explained the impact if the city attempted to pay its share without seeking a debt foreclosure.

This image is disastrous.

In fiscal year 2026, for example, this would add $4.2 million to the city’s budget. Compensating for such a large amount would require deep cuts in all categories of city services. The numbers drew audible gasps from some city councillors.

“I appreciate the figures, says city councilor David Pottier, but we would ship the town hall, the fire stations, because we cannot be satisfied with 25% less operating costs.

Taunton Councilor David Pottier

Scare tactic?

Councilor Estele Borges, a key figure in the BP debate given that she also represents Taunton on the BP school committee, accused Dello Russo and Enos of making the numbers look scary.

“There were a lot of numbers thrown around tonight and a lot of it for me is just scare tactics,” said BP graduate Borges.

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She pointed out that after the MSBA paid $125 million, BP cities and towns would be liable for $180 million. Taunton’s share would be 41%, she said. That’s about $73 million.

File photo: Estele Borges at Weir Riverfront Park on September 7, 2021.

Enos said it was just information.

“We are neither for nor against the project,” Enos said. We’re just presenting the numbers.”

Taunton Town Budget Manager Gill Enos explains a point regarding the Bristol-Plymouth scheme to Councilors on Tuesday 25th January 2022 at Taunton Town Hall.

The state will take 40% of the tab

Municipalities will not have to disburse the full $305 million before being reimbursed. Instead, the MSBA would pay monthly for a more “pay as you go” approach, according to the frequently asked questions section from the BP website.

Voters get an up or down vote on the draft on Saturday, March 5. Polling stations will be open in the seven member communities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In Taunton, in-person early voting and ‘no excuse’ voting by mail will not be offered. The deadline for residents to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, March 1. These requests can be made until noon on Friday, March 4 in person at the Elections Service office.

If all goes as planned, the improved BP could open in September 2025, according to BP. Phase 2 of the project – demolishing the old building and adding new sports fields, would be completed in the spring of 2026.

This rendering shows the new building proposed by Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School.

tax bite

District project consultants estimated in a recent presentation that the annual property tax impact on the average single-family home in each community would be over 30 years, assuming an interest rate of 3.526%:

Berkleys: $285

Bridgewater: $131

Dighton: $241

Middleboro: $178

Raynham: $217

Rehoboth: $110

Taunton: $194

Source: Bristol-Plymouth Vocational Technical High School

Email your news tips to reporter Chris Helms at [email protected] Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette.

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