Panel discusses proposal for two new middle schools in Holyoke

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A panel took place Wednesday night on the proposed two new middle schools in Holyoke.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Zrike started out by breaking down why two schools are needed. Holyoke hasn’t built a new school since the 1980s’ and he said these new schools would be safer and more efficient.

Holyoke received one of the highest reimbursement rates the Massachusetts school building authority has ever given, but it must be used for two schools, not one.

Now, it will come down largely to the voters, who would have to approve a debt exclusion override vote on November 5.

Erin Brunelle, a parent, and member of the school committee said Holyoke has a unique opportunity.

“This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity at the amount of money the state is willing to give us. They’ve never supported a district to get two schools at once either,” Brunelle said.

She added, “When you look at our surrounding communities, you’re going to pay significantly more for a home, and one of the things that families look at is schools, so if we can improve that foundational layer of our community, then everything else will follow suit.”

New estimates released this week project the average yearly tax impact funding the project would have on a single-family home to be around $129 annually, down from $250. But, it’s not just residents, businesses will take on an additional tax burden too, something The Holyoke Mall said could create a real struggle.

“The increase to the magnitude of this, which is roughly, and again I’m not privy to the numbers released today, but it’s roughly around $600,000 a year, if you look at the 30-year term of the note, that’s $18 million,” said Holyoke Mall general manager Bill Rogalski.

Rogalski told 22News with the current state of the retail industry, additional taxes create a real burden, and it won’t help to bring new businesses into the city.

“We do have one of the highest, if not the highest commercial tax rates in the state of Massachusetts,” he said. “It is definitely hard to attract new business with that high a tax rate for sure.”

The school district will be holding their own info session on October 6, and the big vote will be in November.

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