MHS: Building for the future
Well, we knew this, didn’t we? We knew Milford High School had some building issues, so we are not surprised, nor should voters be, that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges pointed them out while still giving the school a good report as part of the accreditation process.
The report said, in part, "The ceiling leaks and sheds paint chips onto the floor, which lacks traction and posts a safety concern. Pipes are old and leak frequently, resulting in the disruption of programs and potential mold damage and … infrastructure concerns limit accessibility, confidentiality and safety and interferes with education."
School officials were aware of such issues and wanted to address them through a $3 million bond that they proposed last winter, a bond that would have included work at the high school and at Bales and the middle school, but voters shot down the proposal at the polls in March.
The issues raised by the accreditation inspectors can’t be ignored, and certainly they weren’t being ignored by school officials, but they can’t be ignored by voters, either.
The question is, though, how can the School Board and the administration sell a fix-up proposal to people already faced with high property taxes in Milford? They couldn’t in March when what they were proposing would have, at its highest, meant 29 cents per $1,000 of home valuation on the tax rate. That would have meant the addition of $87 on the tax bill of someone living in a $300,000 home. That isn’t much, especially when we’re talking about a school.
But … and there’s usually a "but" when it comes to tax issues. The 2015 tax rate for the town of Milford was $28.56, meaning the owner of that $300,000 home paid $8,568 in taxes. One could ask, Well, what, then, does another $87 matter, especially when that would be only in the second year of a 10-year bond with all the other years less, often by quite a bit?
What we have to remember is that many voters have trouble paying property taxes. This is especially true of voters on fixed incomes, so any increase can hurt, especially when a proposal to fix the schools wasn’t the only money article on the town and school warrants. The operative phrase is, "It all adds up."
Because it does.
Still, things must be fixed, just as things in our homes must be fixed, whether we want to spend the money or not.
What school officials need to do, we believe, is come back to voters in March 2017 with a less costly, more targeted plan that leaves out such things as air conditioning for interior rooms and the gym at the high school. We don’t doubt that they believe it would add to the quality of school life, but we don’t think it will ever pass the voter test.
District officials are going to have to concentrate on what absolutely must be done, and the things pointed out in the accreditation report rank up there.
Milford town and school officials really are pretty good about trying to hold down spending, and we hope voters realize that. But some things must be done, and we trust voters realize that, too.
You just can’t have leaky ceilings in your school.