The largest item in the December 2017 debt exclusion is to build a new Maria Hastings elementary school in Lexington.

Cost Category Amount (millions)
Construction and Design $65.3 mm
MSBA Maximum Grant* $16.5 mm
Projected Net Cost to Lexington $48.8 mm

Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is limited to $326/square feet, and excluded $17 million of site preparation and other elements.

Taxpayer approval for the project is viewed as time critical, because MSBA requires town meeting authorization within 120 days of project approval. Our town manager, Carl Valente, indicates that town meeting authorized Hastings contingent on voter approval, so if voters do not approve the project either an extension must be sought from the MSBA or town meeting must again convene to support the project (for which we have no information about feasibility).

While the Hastings project clearly addresses safety and maintenance issues, the additional capacity is only the incremental amount projected over prior school capacity. This study of educational costs (p31) says the MSBA bid was for a 645 student capacity school.

At $48.8 million, the total cost per seat is under $100,000 per seat, far less than the Lexington preschool project or the recent Minuteman vocational technical high school authorization ($145 million for about 600 seats).  Per seat costs are also far less than the proposed Lexington preschool debt exclusion.

However, Hastings has 465 students today, so the net new capacity is 645 – 465 = 180 new seats. From a strictly capacity expansion perspective, Lexington taxpayers are spending $48.8 million to create 180 new seats, or about $271,000 per seat. (Note: these sorts of costs should be consistently taken into account when envisioning the impact of new construction on Lexington or the capital costs of importing students from out of district.)

The Capital Committee report cites the “poor structural condition” of the school and estimated $30 million in renovations required. The committee recommended replacing the building and expanding capacity rather than investing millions in maintaining an old building. The new building will be LEED silver certified and presumably have lower operating costs than the present building.