School Recommends Construction Bond

Bond Explained, Town Council Votes Tonight

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—On Monday, the Conners Emerson School Board unanimously recommended supporting the approximately $58 million bond for the potential Conners Emerson rebuild. Tonight, Tuesday, the Town Council will weigh in, and on Thursday it will be the Warrant Committee’s turn. But the ultimate fate of the project will be in the voters’ hands this June.

The $58 million bond being asked for is a worst-case scenario, the school board, four members of the town’s Warrant Committee and Town Council Chair Valerie Peacock learned Monday afternoon during a presentation at the School Board’s meeting. Warrant Committee members attending were Chair Seth Libby, Vice Chair Julie Berberian, Louise Lopez, and Robert Chaplin.

The reasons why Harriman’s, the consulting firm, and members of the board believe that this is true are due to potential donations, whether or not the contingency funds are used, whether or not island schools are consolidated, whether or not the town’s parking fee funds can or should be used to help cover the project’s costs, and the interest rate of the bond.

If the worst-case scenario comes true, it will equate to a projected increase of $109.58 per $100,000 of home value for property owners in Fiscal Year 2025 to 2026. Then, the increase from Fiscal Year 2026 and through the life of the bond, is projected at $216.96 per $100,000 of home value. These numbers assume a 25-year bond at a 4% rate.

Voters will determine whether or not the town takes out a bond to pay up to $58 million to rebuild the structurally ailing schools. This happens in June. On Monday the school board unanimously voted to recommend that town voters approve the bond. The warrant article specifies that it is “up to” that amount that the town could borrow but might not be all of that amount.

Board member Robin Sue Tapley said, “We are literally sinking, collapsing, caving in, whatever you want to call it. This building will not be safe forever, whether it’s ceiling tiles coming down, air quality, walls coming out.”

Tapley was referencing multiple school structure issues that have occurred lately. Those include a second-grade classroom’s evacuation when water gushed in through a pipe in the closet, a library that was closed for months because the wall had pulled away from the floor, water infiltration in multiple areas and other issues.

“Putting money into this building doesn’t make sense any longer,” Board member Tyson Starling said.

Vice Chair Marie Yarborough agreed with Tapley and Starling, stressing that putting money into shoring up the building, a building where students have to meet with ed techs at desks in hallways and where closets are teaching spaces and offices, feels like a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. She asked where that would get the town. In 35 years and millions in, they would likely still have teachers in closets, she said.

“We’re voting for the future that we want to see and it’s not in this building. It’s just not,” she said.

The meeting moved into the school cafeteria after technical glitches delayed things in the library. Image: Carrie Jones

Any massive fixes for infrastructure issues would still involve a tax increase or a bond, Peacock said, because that money is not currently in the budget. The buildings, Yarborough said, have had two assessments of structural issues in the seven years that she’s been on the school board.

While some bonds can be taken out bits at a time, the school bond would not be. If the project was approved by the voters, the bond would most likely be taken out somewhere around next May or June of 2024, 11 months after the vote.

Contingency funds are built into the $58 million project for two main reasons. The first is if the bidding for the project all comes in over bid. The second is if the building materials costs increase. If those funds are not used, they would go back into the bond’s principal.

The project’s fundraising subcommittee has already gone out for donations from many local nonprofits and banks (among others). Most potential donors, Kristi Losquadro told the board, are supportive of the idea, but want to see if the bond passes first. Many potential donors have indicated an interest in multi-year gifts. Every gift would ease the taxpayer’s burden.

If the town council approved parking meter revenue to be used for capital expenditures (a recently passed state legislation brought forward by Rep. Lynne Williams). That use and using the revenue to help bring down property taxes had not been previously allowed. Williams is a democrat and represents Bar Harbor.  The town hopes to gather over $3 million in the next fiscal year if a proposal to increase the parking fees passes during the budget vote. Currently, the town brings in just over $2 million and uses it to maintain meters and to rework public ways and parking.

The interest rate when the bond is taken out could also decrease or increase. It is currently projected at 4%, which many deem as conservative. The bond would be set for 25 years. An additional 5 years would decrease yearly payments but increase the total cost by $6 million.

The board also addressed a rumor that said if all the schools in the district consolidated, the state would pay for a school. This rumor, they said, is not true.

Board Chair Alexandra (Lilea) Simis said that the school’s rebuild isn’t just a school board issue, but a community issue. Starling said that the school has served the community well for the last decades. A new school at an enrollment of 300 would serve thousands of Bar Harbor students for the next fifty or more, he said.

project timeline, click on image to enlarge


To check out the project, click here.

People can support, discuss, object to or state opinions about the project to town councilors ahead of their meeting at The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the town’s municipal building on Cottage Street (third floor) and includes other business. It can be attended in person or watched on Spectrum cable Channel 7 or 1303 or on Town Hall Streams. The Warrant Committee meeting discussing this and other town warrant articles is scheduled for April 6 at 7:30 p.m. To contact Warrant Committee members, email them at

All images are via the school’s project website (link above).

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