GREAT BARRINGTON -- In the final stretch toward Tuesday's vote, Monument Mountain Regional High School's multimillion-dollar renovation proposal secured two more endorsements from town boards.
The Great Barrington Finance Committee, which represents the largest town in the district, endorsed the $56 million project on Tuesday, 3-2.
Stockbridge's Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the project on Monday; in late September, West Stockbridge's Finance Committee also OK'd it.
The Berkshire Hills Regional School District project would impact the towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge. All three Select Boards have overwhelmingly voted to support the project.
Local voters in each town will head to the polls to vote on the issue Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
No one on the Great Barrington Finance Committee needed to be convinced the 47-year-old building needed to be renovated, but Finance Committee members said the 8 to 9 percent increase in the property tax rate should have the district exploring ways to relieve the town's share of costs.
"We are doing most of the heavy lifting," said Finance Committee Member Thomas Blauvelt, who voted against the project. "I really don't see how it's sustainable to us."
The project was supported by Finance Committee members Sharon Gregory, Mark Lefenfeld and Leigh Davis, while Walter "Bud" Atwood joined Blauvelt in voting against the proposal.
The share of the project's cost would be highest for Great Barrington, because a majority of Monument's students are from the town.
The project would be partially subsidized by a $25 million contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Great Barrington's taxes would increase between $109 to $118 per $100,000 for assessed valuation, according to school officials. For the average home price of $387,756, the tax increase would be between $425 and $460.
The renovations are necessary, school officials say, because it's the most cost-effective way to add 21st century learning amenities, ensure school security, and bring the building up to state and federal building codes.
Concerns about the project cost renewed calls to increase charges associated with choice-in and tuition agreements. Great Barrington Finance Committee members also urged consolidation with surrounding school districts.
"We have no choice but to vote yes, but then we have to look at means to reduce the net costs," Lefenfeld said.
In voting "no," Blauvelt highlighted findings in the town's Master Plan that identify a shrinking and aging population in Great Barrington.
Superintendent Peter Dillon has said the state projects enrollment to hold stable for the next 20 years. The district has enrollment of 1,394 students; there were 290 choice-in students and 127 students enrolled through tuition.
There was minimal community feedback at the Great Barrington Finance Committee meeting, but two residents opposed the project.
Housatonic resident Michelle Loubert said the rate increase in connection with anticipated tax increases on the town's sewer system, the Community Preservation Act, and other fees would be a heavy burden on residents. She said both she and her husband regularly commute to Westfield, which can be expensive, and the tax increases could force them to consider moving.
"There will be real collateral damage because of the ‘yes' vote," Loubert said. "My family will be the collateral damage."
Former finance committee member Andy Moro also objected to the project.
On Monday, the Stockbridge Finance Committee endorsed the project. The project was approved, 6-0 with one abstention because a committee member believed it wasn't the town's business to vote.
Stockbridge would face an assessment of $39-$43 per $100,000 of assessed value.
"We're in favor of it," Finance Committee member Jean Rousseau said. "On the face of it to some on the committee, it sounds soundly conceived. It sounds satisfactory and less expensive than other options."