Some in Orono concerned after approval of $16.8 million for schools

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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Orono residents voted to approve a $16.8 million dollar bond for construction and renovation at the elementary, middle, and high schools.

"The latest significant renovation to these schools happened in the early 80's." says RSU 26 superintendent Meredith Higgins. "We have old buildings and their bones are really good and strong but their systems that need updating."

The funding will be used for things like ADA compliance, electrical upgrades, new classrooms, an auditorium, an athletic field, and more.

"My youngest daughter is going to start at Asa Adams this fall."

Anthony Francis says the taxes on his home will increase by at least $900.

"Everybody wants a better school for the children but I think there could have been a broader discussion to cover this cost without going to the taxes."

He says he's concerned that voters who don't pay property tax may not have considered the extra burden on community members.

"The implications of their vote hurts people that can't afford the extra tax."

Roberta Bradson, owner of The Store Ampersand says "It just raised our taxes too quick too fast."

The Store Ampersand on Mill street posted to Facebook the morning after the vote saying they could no longer afford to operate. Bradson says that while it will be hard, that isn't the case.

"My daughter who is a very passionate hothead put that on there earlier this morning. And I was pleased to see how many people reached out and came in and pleaded for us to please stay open. So yeah we can assure them we'll be open."

Bradson says she thinks the bond covered too many things to be decided with a yes or a no. Like the auditorium, which she says could have been funded by a capital campaign.

"You had to vote for one thing you might not have agreed with the other. I think we could have easily raised the money for that the same way we did the library ten years ago."

Superintendent Higgins says "I hope that everyone understood what was in the bond and trusts that the process has been transparent and really considering the tax impact that this presents to the community."

According to town officials, any change in property tax rates related to the bond will not take effect until fiscal year 2021.