FALL RIVER — Now that Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School obtained state funding for a new buildingthe promoters are stepping up their efforts to encourage citizens to support the project.
“They have now made the cut,” said Sally Cameron, who is working with a private outreach committee that has formed to gain local support for the project.
In December, the Massachusetts School Building Authority announced that it would reimburse Diman up to $145,772,694 for a new school. School officials estimated the total cost of the project at approximately $293 million.
Proponents of the new building say the current Diman is too small to meet modern educational needs and that renovating and expanding the aging building would likely cost even more than building a new school. The new Diman would be designed to have a lifespan of 50 years.
Efforts of the Diman Outreach Committee
The Awareness Committee, a 5013c nonprofit organization run independently of the regional school district, has launched a website, Facebook and instagram to help answer any questions residents may have about the need for the new building and its impact on member communities.
From 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, February 6, the committee plans to hold an outreach event at H&S Tool and Engineering in Fall River to distribute signage and stickers and answer questions about the project.
“The outreach committee knows cities need to step up and help fund this project and take advantage of the $145 million,” Cameron said.
How much will each municipality pay?
Diman’s shipper communities – Fall River, Somerset, Swansea and Westport – will be responsible for paying for what the state will not cover.
The district’s regional agreement requires Fall River to pay around 76% of district costs, Somerset to pay around 9%, and Swansea and Westport to pay around 8% and 5%, respectively. These proportions will also apply to the financing of the new construction project.
Dr. Elvio Ferreira, superintendent of the Greater Fall River Vocational School District, said they expect a 30-year debt cycle for money borrowed to fund the project.
While it’s too early to say exactly how much each community will end up paying, Ferreira said, they have estimates based on current projects and interest rates. Fall River will likely pay $6.5 million per year over the life of the debt, with a tax burden of an additional $69 per year for every $100,000 of home value. Somerset will likely pay around $825,000 each year, or $26 in property taxes per $100,000 of home value. Swansea and Westport would pay $710,000 and $445,000 a year with an impact of $25 and $11 per $100,000 of home value, respectively.
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Sending communities will have to decide this spring whether financing the project will lead to debt overruns, allowing localities to raise property taxes beyond the state-imposed limit of 2.5% each year.
What happens afterwards?
This spring, city residents will be asked to approve their city’s funding for the project at town hall meetings and local elections. In Fall River, the city council must approve the project. If a debt foreclosure is necessary, residents of Fall River would vote in a municipal election.
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Ferreira said if a community of shippers doesn’t approve of the plan, the district will use part of the state regulation that allows regional school districts to hold a district-wide vote on the project instead. .
On Feb. 14, Somerset will hold a special town meeting for residents to approve the district to move forward with its plan, regardless of the town’s funding vote in the spring. Cities are not required to hold such meetings but are permitted to do so.
“This is an opportunity for Town Meeting to decide whether they want to go ahead with this or say no,” said Michael Gallagher, acting Somerset City Administrator. “The board (of coaches) felt it was right to give people a voice.”
Audrey Cooney can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.