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Local legislator warns that Lakeway project could face a long wait for state aid

January 17, 2019
LITTLETON—At last Thursday's hearing on a bond for land and designs for a new elementary school—the potential first concrete step toward a replacement for Lakeway—citizens heard the project's most detailed plan yet, but also got a sobering projection from a state representative, who said state building aid might have to wait until after 2021.

"Ever since I got here, people have been talking to me about Lakeway," recalled Littleton Superintendent Steve Nilhas, opening last Thursday night's bond hearing.

To do nothing "would leave Lakeway in a state of always being repaired," Nilhas summarized.

The planned school would likely be a two-story structure with capacity for up to 500 students. Roofs and foundations being relatively more expensive than walls and floors, a taller structure with a smaller footprint is thought to be more cost-effective.

The first step, a draft warrant article rolled out on Thursday would enable the purchase of land this year, for which the district would bond (borrow) up to $900,000. The total cost of borrowing would be reduced by $150,000 from the district's savings, and the debt could be paid off in less than five years.

A $900,000 bond would add about 24 cents to the tax rate, or $0.24 per thousand dollars in property value ($24 for a $100,000 home) in the first year.

With land in hand, the district would await the return of state building aid, which in past years has offered to cover as much as 55 percent of costs, but which has been unavailable for some time. Under current estimates, a successful state aid application could drop direct costs to less than $10 million. On the other hand, Nilhas acknowledged that waiting for the return of state building aid could be "fool's gold."

Assuming state aid comes back, the current timeline for the new elementary project to begin in earnest would be two years minimum, and possibly as much as three to five.

After last week, the latter timeline seemed more likely.

Erin Hennessey (R), one of Littleton's two State Representatives, told the Board, Nilhas, and citizens that two bills which would reintroduce building aid are working their way through the State House.

House Bills 175 and 176 were introduced on December 27, 2018, and are in the earliest stages of the legislative process. Hearings are scheduled for the morning of Thursday, Jan. 17. If passed, aid would return in fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.

Hennessey, who is not one of the bills' sponsors, estimated that the legislation would include no less than $50 million in total state aid, of which $35 million would be for past projects. In the interval between the last round of state aid and the present, a backlog of potential projects has built up, all of which would be ahead of Littleton in the line for aid.

"Unless something changes, Lakeway will not get funding in this upcoming biennial," and would have to await the next funding round in 2021, Hennessey said.

The Board scheduled a pair of supplementary hearings for Jan. 22, at 5:30 and 6 p.m., in the LHS Cafeteria.

Garnet Hill
Penny Pitou
Martin Lord Osman
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