Project Bond Update

At the February 27th SBC meeting, Jim Hutchinson, Chair of the Finance Committee, provided information about the recently issued bond for the project, and shared analysis of the impact on residential tax bills.

On February 15th, the Town’s “AAA Stable” bond rating was reconfirmed by Standard & Poors. This was excellent news for Lincoln, and reflects the decades of hard work and sound financial policy practiced by our professional and volunteer financial team. With the best possible rating in hand, an initial $80M bond was put out to bid and eight offers were received. Citibank Global Markets offered the lowest interest rate, an average of 3.38% over the 30 year life of the bond, which is significantly lower than the percentage rates used in the tax impact models shown at the December 1st Town Meeting. Following are two ways of looking at the tax impact:

The table below shows the projected tax impact on different house values for FY20. It takes into account the proposed FY20 Budget (on which we will vote at the March 23rd Town Meeting).The graph compares the impact of the current scenario ($80M just borrowed @ 3.38% + an expected $8.5M bond @ 4% in 2021) to two prior estimates on a calendar year basis. For the current scenario only (light green bar), the graph includes the impact of the proposed FY20 budget.

This Week @ the SBC: Bond Rate & Design Updates!

In December, the Finance Committee used estimated bond rates of 4% and 5% to model the projected tax impact of the project…

Last week the town’s finance team got an updated bond rating and was ready to put the initial project bond out to bid, locking in our interest rate. The initial bond is for $80M out of the $88.5M residents authorized the town to borrow in order to fund the $93.9M project ($4.4M from the Stabilization Fund and $1.0M from free cash make up the difference between $88.5M and $93.9M). The Finance Committee will give us the bid results and more details at Wednesday’s meeting!

Also on the agenda:

  • Review Updated Floor Plan
  • Review Updated Exterior Elevations and Materials
  • Review Interior Designs of Community Spaces
  • Review Updated Monthly Budget

The SBC meeting is on Wednesday, February 27th, 7:00pm, Hartwell multipurpose room.

Not Our First Rodeo…

Interior DesignAt the January 23rd SBC meeting, the SBC got a look at design concepts for the the interior of the school.  SMMA talked about choosing interior finishes that 1) create a calmer visual environment; 2) are durable; and 3) stay within our budget. This is made a bit more challenging by the fact that this is a renovation project, and that a number of colorful items will remain in place (i.e. teal countertops and cabinets in some rooms). As the interior is planned, it is important to think about future repairs and replacement when choosing the finishes, and later, the furniture. For example, we don’t want to specify 400 kiwi green chairs only to discover that a) the color will soon be discontinued, or b) that in a few years the “kiwi” of 2019 reminds us too much of the “avocado” of 1979. Fortunately, our administrative team has spent the last several years making these kinds of decisions for the Hanscom Primary and Middle Schools. We are able to draw on this depth of experience and the lessons learned.

Project ScheduleOur Construction Manager, Consigli, presented two important pieces of information at the meeting:

  1. Their cost estimate for the project (based on the Schematic Design phase) came in at essentially the same cost as the prior two estimates by SMMA and Daedalus. There will be another round of cost estimates in late March at the end of the Design Development phase.
  2. Consigli believes that the project can be completed by the start of the 2022/23 school year.  This is about six months earlier than previously planned (the image above shows a comparison of the old and new project schedules). This is one advantage of using a construction manager versus the “design, bid, build” construction method. Consigli is on board now, is part of the detailed investigation of existing conditions, and can help solve problems before difficult (or costly) issues arise.

Site Work: A Site Plan working group was brought together to think through refinements to the site plan. The initial meeting included representation from SMMA, Daedalus, the administrative team, the Conservation Commission, Parks & Recreation, the Roadway & Traffic Committee, the Cycling Safety Committee, and the SBC. The group will examine site related issues and bring ideas and recommendations to the SBC for its consideration.

A Look Inside…

…at Plans for the Interior

At this Wednesday’s SBC meeting (January 23rd, 7:00pm, Hartwell multipurpose room), the SBC will spend the bulk of the meeting reviewing updated floor plans, interior design, and interior materials.

3rd Grade Hub as of December 2018

Cost Check: After the December vote, Consigli came on board as our Construction Manager. Since then, they have been examining the building and working with SMMA and Daedalus to understand the details of the project. In the past couple of weeks, Consigli conducted their own cost estimate based on the Schematic Design documents.  This was an independent estimate of the construction costs, which they then reconciled with SMMA and Daedalus. Consigli’s estimate will be reviewed at Wednesday’s SBC meeting.

Managing the Process: In addition to the School Committee, SBC and school administration, town administration and multiple boards and committees are involved in some aspect of the project. A “chairs” meeting took place on January 14th to bring together SMMA, Daedalus, and representatives of Town entities to ensure that permitting efforts are coordinated and communication is efficient. The meeting included representation from town and school administration, the SBC, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Conservation Committee, Planning Board, Green Energy Committee, and the Historical Commission. 

This is a Community Project

Over the past 19 months, the Lincoln School project has been forged by the willingness of residents with a wide range of values, priorities, expertise, opinions, and viewpoints to come together to try to collaboratively solve an incredibly complex problem. The goal of the SBC has been to create a process and a platform for individual ideas to be heard and to give direction to its work. In June, we presented 5 viable ways to move forward, and our community made a group decision, in an unprecedented way, about which project best balanced those priorities and delivered the most value for the investment.

At the end of that Special Town Meeting, an overwhelming majority chose the project known as “L3.” The clarity of the vote was due to the fact that many people, with many ideas, were willing to passionately champion their values while demonstrating their willingness to compromise; finding a balance among multiple needs and interests.

The result is a project that is a reflection of resident values; it is “ours,” as a town, in every sense of the word.

What did it take to get to this point?

When we started this process, many challenged us to go beyond a school that is “safe, warm, and dry” and to focus on transforming the educational environment. They noted that the neighborhood model of classrooms, which supports how our educators teach (with future flexibility), would be easiest to achieve in a new, more compact building – not one with classrooms strung out along a long corridor.

Many residents focused on the opportunity to live up to the green energy goals LIncoln set for itself a decade ago, when the town voted to adopt a fossil fuel reduction standard for its public buildings. They focused our attention on “energy use intensity,” the importance of a well-insulated building, new heating & cooling technologies, and the need to generate electricity on site in order to further reduce our carbon footprint. This would be easiest to achieve with new construction.

Others drew our attention to the deep historical ties the town has to the Ballfield Road site. It was the home of the Lincoln Mohawks baseball team in the first half of the 20th century, and where the town regularly gathered in the grand stands. The Lincoln School itself was designed by two Lincoln-resident modern architects, Lawrence Anderson and Henry Hoover. They helped transform school architecture by providing ample access to natural light, connections to the outdoors, and moveable (dare we say flexible?) furniture that wasn’t bolted to the floor. Many residents saw the important connection of the current building to our town’s history, and wanted to ensure that we re-used as much of it as possible and preserved the integrity of the campus.

The Lincoln School is an important center of the community, and many emphasized its role in our recreational and civic life. They placed a high value on retaining both of our full-sized gyms and the Auditorium.

And everyone wanted to ensure that the project would provide good long-term value for the up-front cost – while being mindful of the immediate impact on the community.

As is quickly apparent, it is not easy to reconcile all of these priorities – but there was a lot of determination! As a result of the creativity of our design team and our committee, and a high level of community participation in the process, we all decided that L3 did the best job of drawing all of those interests together.

On Saturday, we will come together to test that hypothesis.

We know that people will come to the meeting looking at the project through different lenses and their own set of experiences. While we all listen to the presentations and the ensuing debate, the following questions might serve as a framework:

  • What is the impact of our decision on future generations of educators and learners?
  • When we look back in 10 or 20 years, will we have made a wise choice?
  • Have we successfully balanced the values of our community? – Education, environmental stewardship, respect for our history and civic life, and fiscal responsibility?
  • What is the impact of our decision on other Town priorities?

Each of us may answer these questions in different ways. We look forward to a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation on Saturday.

Remember…

…way back in March of 2017 when we were young, carefree, and just starting this process?

Sometimes, unless you are in the Lincoln School every day, it is easy to forget some of the basic reasons we are deciding, THIS SATURDAY, on a school project.

In March 2017, Town Meeting voted unanimously to release $750K that had been previously set aside for a school study, and to start again on developing a Lincoln School project. That vote indicated agreement that the condition of the school needed to be addressed. What do those basic infrastructure needs look like?

  • Big systems are at or beyond life expectancy. As a result, classrooms are often uncomfortably cold or hot, disrupting learning and impacting teaching:
    • HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) – The school does not have dehumidification or cooling except in selected areas.
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
    • Building Envelope: roof, windows, insulation
  • There is no fire suppression system.
  • The school does not meet current snow load, structural, or seismic codes.
  • The school and the site do not meet current codes to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • Entryways do not conform to best practices either for security or energy efficiency.

To see some images, click here. Also, click on the image below to see a short video taken a couple of weeks ago in our elementary Wellness (aka Physical Education) teachers’ office.

Does that mean we’re not keeping up with maintenance? 

No. Each year we have voted as a town to fund a maintenance budget for the Lincoln Schools of about $75,000.  The town has a creative and skilled facilities maintenance team that gets the most out of that money by finding parts for obsolete equipment on eBay, making parts, and an endless array of other inventive solutions. About six years ago, for example, they re-sealed the seams on the roof to try to eke out a few more years before a project. It is worth noting that when we were working with the MSBA, which takes a dim view of towns that purposely avoid routine care, they complimented our facilities team on what they were accomplishing through basic maintenance.

Why can’t we just do this in stages?

The cost of replacing major systems means that they must be done as a capital project because they are outside the price range of the operating budget. Each year, the Capital Planning Committee gathers all the capital requests from each town agency, and works collaboratively to prioritize and do long-range planning. When the school department approached CapCom in 2002, the magnitude of the building’s needs led everyone to agree that it would be wise to do a more comprehensive study of the buildings on campus. Since 2003, multiple town committees and six independent consultants have come to the conclusion that a single project is 1) most cost effective; and 2) least disruptive to our children’s education.

  • Because building-wide systems need to be replaced, there is no area of the school that will be untouched. As a one-school town, there is no other place to house students while work is being done, and it is too extensive to complete over summers or vacations.
  • It does not make sense to do the same work twice, i.e. open up the walls to replace the heating system, and then go back and open up the walls to replace the electrical or plumbing systems.
  • Doing extensive work requires us to bring the building up to current safety, accessibility, and structural codes.
  • We want to minimize the time students and teachers are operating in a construction zone.

On June 9th, the Town considered a $49M option that would have addressed the building’s basic needs. In the first round of voting, almost 96% of those at Town Meeting rejected that solution and chose one of the other project concepts that went beyond repair and addressed additional needs.

Over these final few days before Saturday’s vote, we will try to condense and revisit information that has been shared over the past months.  If you have questions, please write a comment or contact the SBC.

Thank you!

-The Outreach Team


Just for Fun:  What is “Budget Falls”?

  • A.  The latest Wall Street exposé by Michael Lewis.
  • B.  A thriller set in an abandoned mill town.
  • C.  What the students named the plastic tarp catching the leaks in the Brooks Hallway.

Click here for the answer!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Outreach Team wishes everyone a turkey-and-pie-filled, enjoyable few days!

We will be on hiatus for just a bit…and then you’ll be hearing from us quite frequently in the final days before the Special Town Meeting which is a week from Saturday!

A few links in case you’re trying to avoid doing the dishes:

Lincoln School Project Overview (this should have arrived in the mail along with the official Town Meeting warrant notice and a glossary of Finance Committee terms.

FAQs: Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Finance Committee FAQs

FAQs: Tax Deferral and Abatement Programs

Click here to visit the Town’s page dedicated to the December 1st Special Town Meeting.  Lot’s of information!

 

FAQ – Tax Relief Programs

~~ TONIGHT! Multi-Board Meeting ~~

7:00pm – 9:00pm Hartwell Pod B

The School Building Committee, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, and Green Energy Committee will present updated information in preparation for December 1st.  

The public is welcome and encouraged to come ask questions!


FAQ: Are there any ways to mitigate the impact of the property tax increase?

The Town of Lincoln offers all of the tax deferral and abatement programs authorized by the state. Below is a chart of the available programs. For more information about property taxes, please visit the Assessor’s web page on the Town website.

See the Latest!

After getting strong guidance from the community that it preferred a “sloped roof” approach to the new center of the building, our design team incorporated the feedback people gave and created updated drawings of the exterior.  Take a look!

(Funding) Plans…(Building) Plans…(Voting) Plans…

What is the funding plan?

The Lincoln Finance Committee met on Monday, November 5th and voted unanimously to recommend the following plan for funding the $93.9M Lincoln School project:

  • $4.4M from Stabilization Funds (existing funds)
  • $1.0M from Free Cash (existing funds)
  • $88.5 BOND (new borrowed funds)

This is the funding mix the Town will vote on.

The Finance Committee also voted unanimously to release the following statement:

“On June 9th the town decisively supported a school project that embodied educational values and sustainability through a renovated school project. We believe:

    1. The SBC has faithfully executed on this charge designing a project staying within the $93.9mil budget,
    2. The town can finance it and should be able to maintain our AAA bond rating,

and thus FinCom supports this project.”

How will this impact our property taxes?

What are the updates to the building plans?

At the November 1st workshops and through subsequent outreach, the community was asked to weigh in on “flat roofs” vs “sloped roofs” for the center section of the building. Thank you to everyone who offered their opinion!

The feedback from those who weighed in showed a strong preference for sloped roofs (~80% vs 20%). At Wednesday’s meeting, the SBC considered both options, and voted to direct the design team to further refine the sloped roof design. If the project is approved, there will be further work to determine optimal design details.

What are your voting plans?

Saturday, December 1st: Special Town Meeting, 9:00am

  • Both the Auditorium and the Reed/Brooks Gym will be available for voters.
  • Eligible voters must check in outside the Auditorium.
  • You must be present to vote at the Town Meeting.
  • A 2/3 majority is required to authorize the funding and to proceed with the project.

Monday, December 3rd: Ballot Vote, 7:30am – 8:00pm

  • Voting is in the Smith Gym.
  • You may vote an absentee ballot in person at the Town Clerk’s office starting on Friday, November 9th.
  • Requests for absentee ballots must be made before 5:00pm on November 30th.
  • Applications for absentee ballots may be made by a family member, BUT Massachusetts law does not permit any person to obtain or deliver an absentee ballot for another individual.
  • Absentee ballots being returned by mail from the United States must be received by the Town Clerk by the close of the polls (8pm) on December 3rd.
  • To request a ballot or to get more information visit https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleabsentee/absidx.htm

Outreach  Events

  • TOMORROW (Friday) – 8:30am in the Lincoln Woods community room
  • TOMORROW (Friday) – 1:00pm in Bemis Hall
  • SATURDAY, 11/10 – 1:00pm, Lincoln Library
  • TUESDAY, 11/13 – 8:00am, Hartwell Multipurpose Room
  • WEDNESDAY, 11/14 – 9:00am, deCordova Café
  • THURSDAY, 11/15 – 11:00am, The Commons
  • THURSDAY, 11/15 – 7:00am, Multiboard Meeting, Pod B