September 14, 2022
Dear BSD Community,
On August 15, City Council unanimously approved our request to put a bond question for a new high school and technical center on the November ballot! A successful bond would allow BSD to borrow up to $165m for the project, which is estimated to cost $190m. BSD has already identified $25m in District and federal resources to go toward the project costs, including $10m in American Rescue Plan funds, $10m from current capital plan funds, and $5m in budget savings and surpluses. In addition, BSD leveraged a $10m grant from Senator Leahy for aviation education to reduce the project cost $20m by moving some Burlington Technical Center programs into new spaces at the airport.
Over the past year, we have been working hard to balance our need for a new high school with keeping the impact to taxpayers as low as possible. So, even though we have reduced the price of the project by 35m already, it is our goal to continue public and private fundraising efforts to ensure we do not need to borrow the full $165m bond amount. Currently, we are pursuing 16 different federal and state funding mechanisms this year, and we will be lobbying for funding in the next fiscal year budget. I’m sure we will be asking for your advocacy in these efforts. We also recently announced a fundraising partnership with the Burlington Students Foundation which allows individuals to make tax-deductible contributions (more on both of these efforts below).
This morning I was pleased to join a group of people at The Bagel Cafe and Deli as I make my way around town sharing information about BHS/BTC 2025 and the bond vote. As you will see below, my team, volunteers, and I will continue to be accessible leading up to the bond vote. You’ll also find a number of important updates about the project below, from welcoming our construction manager to identifying a timeline to get out of “A” Building completely so that we can begin demolition as soon as possible.
As you go through these updates and materials, please remember you can always join us in person at one of several events in the next few weeks, or send me an email with any questions you might still have. Ballots for the November election will be arriving in your mailboxes at the end of the month… don’t forget to vote!
Independent Study – We’ve created a number of resources to help give you the information you need to make an informed decision when your ballots hit your mailbox at the end of the month.
Group Work – If you prefer face-to-face interactions, here are a number of opportunities to learn more about the bond.
Sept 14: Ward 1 NPA
Sept 15: Ward 5 NPA
Sept 21: Town Hall at DtBHS, 7 PM
Sept 24: Tabling at The Bagel Cafe and Deli, 9-11AM
Sept 28: Ward 4&7 NPA
“A” Building Demolition – If the bond passes in November, we will need to move quickly to stay on our timeline to have BHS/BTC 2025 ready by 2025, which means beginning demolition of “A” building in late December/early January. To plan for this, we have contracted former EES Principal Shelley Mathias to be the project manager for transitioning us out of this building and all buildings. This move most impacts drama, music, athletics, and food service, as we will remove any items from the entire building that we wish to bring back into the school upon completion of the construction. To support the removal of items, we will be leasing around 8,100 square feet of warehouse and office space on Pine St. and Shelley is working with District and school administration and staff to coordinate what items will need to be removed and how to make it happen.
Drama will need alternative rehearsal and performance spaces. This may impact the type of productions we offer, with a greater focus on productions that do not require elaborate and large sets, but we are committed to making sure we are still providing great opportunities to our students.
For food services, we have shifted food preparation from the Institute Road kitchen to kitchens in our other schools, and the Pine St. location will provide needed office space for their staff as well as several walk-in fridges and freezers for the storage of bulk items.
Winter Sports are also impacted, as this move also means indoor winter sports will need to find a new home. Director Pinckney has secured alternative spaces for all indoor winter sports through December 31, both for practices and games, and is working to secure agreements through March 2023 and beyond.
While the logistics of this move are complex, we are confident that we will be able to be out on time and that we our athletics and drama productions will continue to be of the highest standards.
Public Funding – We have been working with Leonine Public Affairs (LPA) to locate and capture federal and state funds for the project. Currently, we are working with Sen. Leahy’s office to prepare for a meeting with the Economic Development Administration (EDA) where we will request funding related to the construction of BTC. In addition, Rep. Welch’s office has been helping us work through multiple energy efficiency programs and Sanders’ Office has offered assistance with a separate federal grant program through the U.S. Department of Education (for which BSD has already submitted their intent to apply). Mayor Weinberger has been actively supporting our work and we are also working with multiple state agencies and departments as guidelines are constructed for programs that have been funded at either the state or federal level. Our goal is to ensure that BSD is eligible for as much of this funding as possible, through sources such as the Vermont FY 2023 Budget and the Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act, for example. Some other opportunities we are pursuing are funding for Indoor Air Quality assistance, and funding for PCB remediation which will be in play next legislative session (as the funds depend on additional action by the legislature). During Monday’s City Council Meeting, we also asked that the City begin the process of considering waiving permit application and development review fees associated with the project, which could save around $165,000.
Private Fundraising – We have received about $50,000 in private donations already, as mychamplainvalley.com reported earlier this week. The majority of these funds go right to the project and is a major first step toward reaching our $200,000 private fundraising goal.
Construction Manager – On August 30th, our board voted to award the construction manager services contract for this project to the low bidder, Whiting-Turner. Whiting-Turner will begin working immediately on their pre-bond preconstruction services which includes preparing a schematic design cost estimate to update our current cost estimate, as well as creating a detailed construction phasing and demolition schedule.
2018 $70m Bond Clarification – In 2018, Burlington taxpayers supported a $70m bond to partially demolish, renovate and rebuild BHS. It is important to know that all but $4m of that bond has been returned or was never borrowed in the first place. The $4m that we did spend was spent on the design of the ReEnvisioning project (when we thought we were moving forward) and hazardous materials testing (including PCBs). As we look to voters for a bond in November, please know that we are not asking for a bond on top of the previous amount, as we no longer have access to those funds.
Support the Project – There is a small group of volunteers working to support the project by being present and accessible in the community. If you would like to join this group, please sign up at the bottom of the project website.
Register to Vote – Not yet registered but want to weigh in on the future of BHS/BTC 2025? Vermont offers online voter registration… Register to vote today!