(Editor's Note: The following is a written statement by Dave Hausler, who prepared the remarks as part of his presentation at on 200 Tyler Street. Additionally, the educational use committee's recently updated and revised proposal — which has been submitted by Hausler to the Town Council and Board of Education for their review — is attached to this post. It can also be found here.)
To the Editor:
I will briefly summarize a plan that was prepared with many hours of effort over the course of several years. I served on the Committee that produced the educational plan for the revitalization of 200 Tyler Street. That committee was made up of former educators, members of both political parties, and past members of the School Building Committee.
I will present the facts we found, then make a few assumptions, and finally present the conclusion our committee found.
First, the facts. The committee first looked to the current configuration of the school district, and how it compares to other districts in the state. We looked at five schools that had elementary school enrollment that was within plus or minus 50 students of East Haven's enrollment. We counted how many buildings housed each district's elementary students, and then looked at the cost to operate the schools in each of the five districts.
We found that East Haven operates more elementary schools and pays more in combined adminstration, building and maintenance costs per student than any other district with the same size enrollment. The additional expense costs the town as much as $2 Million dollars per year. These costs, as far back as state records show publicly, have increased on average 7% annually.
For all that we spend above and beyond other towns our size, what value do we get for our money? Our district performs under state averages by many measures, resulting in our designation as an "Alliance District", a reflection that we among the worst performing school systems in the state.
Now, the assumptions. In order to stop the continued expense of operating 6 elementary schools, we need to consolidate into fewer buildings. When we look at the existing system, our largest buildings are underused, and many need significant renovations. The best way to get state assistance for renovation is through education construction grants. Our designation as an "Alliance District" makes East Haven eligible for 69% reimbursement toward any school construction project. This was confirmed this past month by Representative James Albis, who checked with the Governor's office.
The committee believed that 200 Tyler Street was the perfect building to begin a long-term redistricting plan, because of its size and its central location in town. Renovating 200 Tyler Street would allow for the emptying and renovation of the Melillo campus without buying temporary classrooms. Once these two projects are completed, the Board of Ed could close whichever buildings it sees fit. We estimated that design and construction for 200 Tyler Street and Melillo would take six years.
The committee gathered existing estimates for the renovation, and solicited new ones from a structural engineer. A rough estimate for 200 Tyler Street was $250 per square foot, which we estimated at 96,000 square feet by selectively renovating the best sections of the building only. The total cost for 200 Tyler Street would be $24 Million dollars. A recent estimate collected by the BoE put the cost of renovating Mellilo at $24 Million dollars. Rounding off the two projects, the total cost can be estimated at $50 million dollars conservatively.
At 69% reimbursement, the taxpayer cost of the two projects can be estimated at $15.5 Million dollars. The town recently completed payment of the bond for the construction of the new high school, a 7.2 million bond which took 13 years to pay off. Based on these figures, we estimate that the bond for this project would likely be repaid in 20 years or less.
Meanwhile, once the 6 years of construction are finished, and with the closure of 2 elementary school buildings, East Haven will begin saving $2 Million dollars per year in school operating costs. Those costs, remember, have been increasing 7% on average every year. The committee believes the town will actually break even on the project before the bond is paid.
In conclusion, we only get one chance to do the right thing with the property at 200 Tyler Street. No other property this size and in such good location is likely to be found in East Haven. I ask the Town Council to work with the Mayor's office and the Board of Education towards the only plan that uses this building to save future generations millions of dollars in needless operating expense.