HARWICH PORT — By a more than three-to-one margin, voters Tuesday gave Cape Cod Tech the green light for a $128 million new high school building.
Based on unofficial tallies from town clerks in the 12 towns from Mashpee to Provincetown, the building project passed by a vote of 12,207 to 3,927, earning solid wins in each town in the district.
“Most of all, this vote endorses our students,” Superintendent of Schools Robert Sanborn, III told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at the Hot Stove Saloon, where the election returns were being counted Tuesday night. The overwhelming win at the polls represents a strong mandate from voters who see the need for vocational education, he said.
The vote passed by margins of 1,246 to 266 in Orleans, 637 to 119 in Chatham, and 1,503 to 491 in Harwich, where a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote also passed handily. Though exact figures were not immediately available, voter turnout was higher than predicted, topping 20 percent in some towns.
Sanborn gave credit to the school's alumni and students for spreading the word about the need to replace the 42-year-old school building and praised staff for presenting voters with information about the project in a clear, understandable manner. He also thanked the school committee, the school building committee and campaign volunteers.
Even those who opposed the project prefaced their arguments by acknowledging the need to give local students the option to receive a vocational education, Sanborn said.
The superintendent said he was extremely grateful for voters' support. The margin of victory was “staggering,” he noted, and the district hopes that momentum will translate not just into a new building, but also to increased enrollment. Following a recent dip in the number of students attending Cape Tech, “we're going to redouble our efforts” to make certain that students on the Mid and Lower Cape know that they have the choice of a vocational education, Sanborn said.
The project team will now get to work on design and bid documents, in a process expected to take more than nine months; a groundbreaking for the project is expected to be at least a year away, Sanborn said.
“This was a five-year process,” he said of the effort to plan the project and secure funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. That state agency initially pledged to reimburse the district towns 45.45 percent of eligible project costs, but the district recently learned that extra funds in a supplemental state budget effectively raised the reimbursement rate to 51.12 percent, which should save taxpayers an additional $5.3 million.
That means that the impact on the average annual property tax bill will be even less than the $22.74 predicted for Orleans taxpayers, the $66.51 for Harwich property owners, and the $8.73 for Chatham taxpayers. By statute, the project cost is shared among the district's 12 member towns using a rolling formula based on each town's enrollment.
State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, and State Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, who helped secure the additional funding for the project, sent school officials their congratulations by text message Tuesday night.
Construction of the new 650-student building is projected to cost about the same as it would have cost to renovate the existing school, which has failing windows, doors and masonry and a design that doesn't meet current code requirements. The new school will be 6,000 square feet larger than the current building, and will be built on the eastern edge of the existing property in the Pleasant Lake section of town, allowing classes to continue during construction. Once the new building is complete, the old school will be razed to make room for athletic fields and parking.