GREAT BARRINGTON -- The town of West Stockbridge has endorsed a multi-million dollar renovation of Monument Mountain Regional High School, while boards in the two other towns in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District expect to discuss the measure by the end of October.
The school renovation plan will be considered by voters in all three towns on Election Day, which is Nov. 5.
Both the West Stockbridge Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee voted in late September to endorse the $56 million renovation, which would be partially subsidized by a $25 million contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
If West Stockbridge voters approve the renovation project, homeowners will pay $376 to $407 more in annual property tax revenue, based on the price of the average single family home in West Stockbridge -- $427,317.
"Nobody likes a tax increase, that's not appealing to anybody," West Stockbridge Finance Committee Chairman Robert Salerno said. "If you have to have a tax increase you have to make it a justifiable expense."
Salerno said the board believes a tax increase is the most practical option for renovating the school.
District officials and advocates say a wholesale renovation is the most cost-effective method to renovate the aging high school. They say the school does not meet federal American Disabilities Act standards and does not offer 21st century learning amenities.
Schoolwide renovations would include plumbing, electrical wiring, and bringing handicap access up to code. There would be a new science laboratory, classroom space and a greenhouse.
The increase in the property taxes in each of the three member towns will be based on the number of students from those municipalities who attend district schools.
Great Barrington homeowners would pay an additional $109 to $118 per $100,000 of valuation, while Stockbridge property values would pay another $39 to $43 per $100,000. In West Stockbridge, the residents would pay an additional $88 and $95 per $100,000 of valuation, according to school district officials.
Even without a massive renovation, officials said the aging high school would need to undergo costly repairs because its infrastructure is so old. If the district decided to fix the high school in stages, the project would not receive a guaranteed reimbursement from the state, officials have said.
"The renovating plan is a much wiser decision because we have the state grant as well," said Karen Zick, chairwoman of the West Stockbridge Board of Selectmen. "It's better for the education of the students in the long run."
The Stockbridge Board of Selectmen is expected to meet on Oct. 21 to discuss the renovations, according to a town official.
The town's Finance Committee will meet on Oct. 28.
In Great Barrington, the Finance and School committees are expected to discuss the project at a joint meeting on Oct. 29. Neither board is required to endorse the project before the matter is presented to town voters on Election Day.
"Our role is to be an advisory body to the Select Board and it's not a Select Board decision," said Sharon Gregory, chairwoman of the Great Barrington Finance Committee.
Upcoming meetings on Monument Mountain Regional High School's renovation project:
Oct. 21: Board of Selectmen, Town Hall.
Oct. 22: Informational meeting from Monument Now, an advocacy group for the project, will provide a presentation at the Stockbridge Public Library from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: Finance Committee, Town Hall.
Oct. 15: Great Barrington Board of Selectmen. Town Hall.
Oct. 29: Great Barrington Finance Committee. TBA.
Oct. 17: Informational meeting from Monument Now at West Stockbridge Community Room from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On the Web: www.monumentnow.org.