SAU 84 buys property for tech center
$350,000 budget surplus found
July 02, 2009
LITTLETON—The Littleton School Board has arranged to secure a piece of property essential to building a new career and technical center.
Last week, the board signed a purchase and sales agreement to buy a house and lot at 140 High Street, located next to the current Hugh Gallen Career and Technical Center (CTC). The price for the property, owned by Joseph Sokolowski, was $271,000.
"This property is integral to the project," according to School Administrative Unit (SAU) 84 Board Chair Milt Bratz. "With this design we have to have it."
Bratz said at the moment the board was operating under the assumption it would use the design prepared by Breadloaf Construction in advance of Town Meeting this past March. That design put a parking lot where the current CTC is located, and a building and driveway would be located where the house is located.
"We may go with a different design but right now I don't see any reason why we should," Bratz said.
The plan, presented in March, combined replacing the CTC and Daisy Bronson Middle School with one building. Both buildings are due to be replaced. The CTC has had structural issues, including a perennial leaky roof for years, and Daisy Bronson is over 50 years old and not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The purchase of the property is contingent on it being approved by the voters at Town Meeting in March 2010. Bratz said the warrant article asking voters to approve the purchase will likely be one of only three warrant articles requesting appropriations.
The other two warrant articles will be the budget and the article authorizing the building of a new CTC and middle school.
The price for the Sokolowski property is about $75,000 over the assessed value of the property. This price was part of the agreement as an incentive to get Sokolowski to sell the property, Bratz said, as no money, except a $5,000 down payment, will change hands until after the voters approve the purchase.
If the voters approve the purchase, Sokolowski will be allowed to live in the house without payment for 90 days after the property is deeded to the school district, Bratz said.
The district also agreed to move Sokolowski's extensive perennial bushes from the property to wherever he wishes, according to Bratz.
Last week the board discovered it had a $350,000 surplus, Bratz said Monday.
Acting business manager Carol Coppola brought the figures to the board's attention last week.
The money will be used to lower the tax rate next year, Bratz said.
"Bringing the rate down is a step in the right direction," he added.
Bratz said the surplus was no surprise to him, though former superintendent Dotty Danforth had said several times there would be a very small surplus, if there were one at all.
While making no comment about previous accounting practices, Bratz said he disagreed all along with Danforth's assessments.
"We've consistently had a large surplus for the last few years, I saw no reason why we wouldn't this year as well," Bratz said.
Throughout the year there was a $200,000 surplus, he said. Even after the New Year the surplus remained high and while school officials said funds still had to be allotted. It turned out not as much money as anticipated had to be allotted, especially in Daisy Bronson Middle School.
The large surpluses were not always in the case. Bratz noted how when Littleton belonged to SAU 35, one year the budget came within .85 cents of what was budgeted.
The full surplus this year was over $400,000, but around $50,000 was put into reserve accounts, as specified on the town meeting warrant.