Nearly three-quarters of Burlington voters approved a $165 million bond issue Tuesday to build a new high school, capping a two-year effort that began with the discovery of toxic PCBs at the Institute Road campus
Clare Wool, chair of the Burlington, School Board, said work to get the new facility open by 2025 has already begun. “We are meeting immediately,” she said. “We have plans for demolition starting in January and we have to vacate the old building.”
The project is projected to raise taxes on a $370,000 home in Burlington by about $800. Construction could start as early as the spring, Wool said. Meanwhile, the district is continuing to look for ways to reduce the cost, including raising money and selling the contents of the old building.
The district is also pursuing 17 state and federal funding options, including $32 million earmarked by legislators for PCB contamination,.
“We are not expecting Burlingtonians to bare and shoulder this entire expense, and that’s why we crafted the language on the ballot to say ‘up-to’,” Wool said.
In an effort to further reduce the debt burden on taxpayers, the district is has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto. The agro-chemical giant made the toxic chemicals found in the building and soil during renovations, forcing teachers, students and staff to the old Macy’s building downtown. Monsanto says it “voluntarily stopped producing PCBs 45 years ago.”
Still, Queen City residents could be footing the bill in some capacity until 2047. However, Mayor Miro Weinberger said future generations will benefit from the investment.
“In a time of economic uncertainty and inflation, it really shows the value Burlington has put on education and this addresses a really big challenge that we had looming over this city for a while,” Weinberger said.