Dear S.A.D. #37 Citizens:
On November 8th we are asking for your support on a referendum question that would authorize the district to borrow up to $600,000 from the Maine Bond Bank. This loan will allow us to finish the renovation at the Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology that we began three years ago.
We began this project with the purchase and renovation of the Columbia Supermarket. This portion of the project resulted in creating four vocational programs and spaces. The programs that were created, and that began in the fall of 2020, are Welding, Diesel Technology, Automotive, and Early Childhood. At this time, we have moved our CNA/Medical Technologies program to our new site along with starting a new CDL/Commercial Truck Driving program. Our new facility is busting at the seams with the addition of these two programs and it is now time to expand into the additional space.
The new space will be the home for our CDL, Medical Technologies, and Law Enforcement programs. The renovation will include eight newly renovated classroom spaces giving us the room to develop new programs for the future. We plan to also move Aquaculture and Alternative Ed into these new spaces along with being able to offer Math and English credits to our CTE students that are behind in credit count.
We now offer to our students ten vocational programs, six programs at our new facility along with Law Enforcement (NHS), Aquaculture (J.B.), Culinary (Machias) and Building & Trades (Machias). It is serving students from SAD #37, Cherryfield, Jonesport/Beals, Machias and Washington Academy. Since we opened the Columbia facility, our enrollment has grown from 47 students in year one (4 programs) to 84 students in year three (6 programs). We have had 198 students receive Vocational/Technical training at our new facility in this three-year period. It has been, and continues to be, a great success. To date, this new CTE school, located in our district and with our students being the majority in attendance, hasn’t cost our citizens any local money or any increase to local taxation. The initial phase of our CTE project was entirely funded by a $2,042,000 FEDES grant that we wrote. Operating expenses have been covered in their entirety by State CTE funding. We originally planned to also renovate the former Bush’s clothing space to house additional programs for our students.
Two years ago, we began working on this expansion project. Our architects estimated that we could complete the renovations to the Bush’s clothing building for around $800,000. We began the process of moving forward with this estimate. We acquired funding of $943,292 through an ESSER (COVID) grant. We believed that this funding would totally pay for the renovations. Two years later, after feeling the effects of COVID, supply chain issues, and inflation, our competitive low bid for the project came in at $1,900,000.
We have been able to secure enough non-budget funding sources to come up with all the funding needed except for the $600,000 that we are asking you to support. We need your approval with your yes vote on the upcoming referendum to continue with this project. This $600,000 dollar loan is secured through the Maine Bond Bank at very low municipal interest (to be set at the time of the loan but at this time it is around 2%). This loan would result in an annual payment of between $50,000 and $60,000 to the district. We believe that we can absorb most of that increase into the regular budget without reflecting much if any increase (we have an annual computer lease payment that expires this year) to the total budget. This district has been debt free since 2013 when the last payment of Narraguagus’ new wing addition was paid off.
Our School Board and I want to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to support our students and their education. I hope that our CTE expansion project is one that you approve of and are willing to support with a yes vote on November 8th. Please let me know if you would like any further clarification on our plans, the financing, or any aspect of this project.
Ronald C. Ramsay
Superintendent of Schools