TORRINGTON: Tomorrow is a very important day in the City of Torrington as we citizens will be asked whether or not to approve a referendum that if passed, will continue the upward trend and gradual transformation of our fine city.
By now, I hope you know the facts, but I’ll repeat them.
Much like the original referendum in November of 2020 that was passed by an overwhelming majority, this time around just makes sense once you understand the why for the ask.
In that previous election, we approved building a brand-new High School/Middle School, addressing a need that was obvious to anyone who spent much time in the then 60-year-old high school.
For $159,575,000, a new educational facility, state of the art, would be built on the campus of the current high school, a big win in this process.
The State of Connecticut would reimburse the city 62.8% of the cost, leaving us on the hook for $74,000,000 or an average 2.06 mill rate increase.
If you remember, if we did nothing it still would have cost almost the same amount to fix the old school as it would be build new.
That is what sold me. The band aid approach just wasn’t going to work and with the state in position to get us that much back (much more than what they would have given back for a fixer-upper) it was an easy decision once I was informed.
Flash forward to the summer of 2021 and a ceremony in front of THS when State Representative Michelle Cook announced that the rate of reimbursement had gone from 62.8% to an astounding 85%.
That saved us a total of 50 million dollars, lowering the Torrington taxpayer burden from 74 million to 24 million.
All that was terrific and still is but then Covid-19 impacted us in a way that no one could have predicted.
Folks from around the area, mostly from New York, flocked to Connecticut with 137 new students entering the 7-12 grade ranks this year alone.
Suddenly a school we were worried was too big when built got small in a hurry.
Under state standards for schools, each student required 170.2 square feet of space in the new building, meaning we needed to build a bigger facility.
At $535 dollars per foot, 12.5 million additional dollars were needed just for that portion of the project.
With a dramatic increase in materials (not a shock if you have shopped lately) adding 10 million more dollars to the project, an additional $20 million total will be required to do the job the right way.
In the referendum, we are being asked to approve another $20 million dollars, bringing the cost of the project to $179,575,000.
Here’s the good news.
Because of the higher reimbursement, building a larger school will cost us 31 million dollars LESS than what we approved in 2020.
As I settle my head down on my shoulders from the numbers spinning around, I can say with confidence that this is a great deal.
Because of the increase in money being paid back, we are in a way playing with house money.
Had we not gotten that summer gift, it would be a different story right now.
In my humble opinion, we have to approve this.
A yes vote gets this community the school it needs at a much lower rate. The mill rate, previously the aforementioned 2.06, would now only increase a projected $1.06 (I know, our taxes are very high already) but what a return we will have.
We turn out some of the best people from our schools and imagine how many more may stay in the district when our Middle School and High Schools are combined.
Torrington is experiencing an upswing. We are starting to full fill more of the potential that surrounds us as the largest community in the Northwest Corner.
A Yes vote on Tuesday allows us to continue that trend.
Let’s get this right Torrington, I have faith in us.