Questions and Answers

Frequently Asked Questions


How do bonds work?

NH RSA 33 describes the bond process in NH.

In general, the District sells municipal tax-free bonds either directly on the bond market or through an intermediary like the NH Municipal Bond Bank. Once the bonds are sold, the District is obligated to pay them back when they mature just like corporate bonds. The interest rate, coupon rate, par value, etc. are determined at the time the bonds are sold. The most recent interest rate estimate is 4%. 

For additional information:


How does the school district plan to pay for the construction costs, and how long should it take to pay it off? How much do you expect to pay annually?


The construction costs would be funded through the sale of bonds per NH RSA 33. It is up to the Board to determine the length of time the bonds will be paid off. There are many variables that could affect the actual costs, and the final costs won’t be determined until bonds are actually sold. An amortization schedule and projected tax impact chart will be developed by the SAU and reviewed by the ASB posted on this site. The presented plan has a 25-year period. The proposed bond features level-principal repayment, which means the payment will decrease over time. 

How were the cost estimates developed?

The District employed the services of a Construction Management firm (CM), DEW Construction, who developed a detailed cost estimate.  This estimate  includes the total project cost, construction cost (hard costs) and soft costs (surveys, permitting fees, escalation, and contingencies for unknown variables).  The estimate was developed using a detailed list of conditions; the structural requirements of the design and a recent review of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing requirements identified by an outside firm.   DEW generated cost estimates and value engineered recommendations based on recent in-house cost data coupled with subcontractor input.   Upon project approval, DEW will competitively bid each trade, with the goal of obtaining a minimum of 3 bids per trade. The Amherst School Board and DEW are committed to inviting qualified local subcontractors and vendors to bid on the project. DEW has a prequalification process that ensures that bidders have established safety programs and proper insurance. As part of their process, DEW ensures there is a proper bid coverage with sensitivity to including local companies. This process will assist in finding the best value available in the marketplace.

The district and DEW have worked diligently to establish a Guaranteed Maximum Price, “GMP.” The GMP is the highest amount taxpayers pay for the project, though if the final price is less than the maximum, the District/taxpayers are not obliged to spend unused monies. Any and all savings may be returned to taxpayers 

How has the price and scope of the PROJECT changed from the first iteration to current renderings?

There have been several iterations throughout the process thus far to reach the proposed renderings we see today. In 2020, the proposed elementary school was three stories tall and was estimated to cost $66 million. The March 2022 bond brought forth a two story elementary building at a cost of $52.2 million, with escalation, the March 2023 cost was at $54.2 million. The current project is listed at $49.9 million and has an 18% reduction in square footage over the previous proposal.


what percentage of votes is needed for the new elementary to pass?

The vote requires 60% voter support. 


What are the energy costs of the facilities after this project?

The new structure will have all modern HVAC, LED lighting, and significantly improved insulation over the existing structure. All of these should result in lower energy consumption by square footage.

Now that the building will be larger, what additional costs associated with the operation of the new elementary school should we expect?

 A community survey conducted in 2020 found that class sizes were a strong concern among respondents. At the time, class sizes were among the highest in the state. Amherst School District has addressed staffing to meet the desired student-teacher ratio over the last four years. Since class size ratios have been addressed, additional teachers are not projected as a result of the building project.  The addition or reduction of staff will be driven by enrollment demands. Enrollment projections are steady and allow the district to feel confident in the size of the proposed project and the ability to meet requirements with the existing FTEs.

The building will be more energy efficient than the current Wilkins buildings. It will create an educational facility that aligns with today’s standards to house the programming of an elementary school.  

Is there an exemption for senior citizens or those who are disabled?

The Town of Amherst offers tax exemptions for elderly and disabled residents, as well as veterans, that are based on specific criteria determined by the Town. Information can be found at the assessing page of the town site.



Can we apply for State aid?

Last year’s proposal was ranked 7 out of 17 proposals submitted. Even though our project was ranked 7th, there was insufficient funding available. Funding was not likely. ASB continues to advocate for an increase in funds for and changes to the building aid process with local legislative representatives. Building projects are ranked on various criteria, including: 

    • Safety and Security

    • Obsolete or Inefficient Conditions

    • Overcrowding/Increased Enrollment

    • Operational Cost Efficiency

    • Maintenance Program

    • District’s eligibility for Free & Reduced Meals

      NH Dept. of Education has indicated that substantial changes to plan will require a new application;  the next application period is April 2025. The ASB is exploring administrative and other appeal options. 

To learn more about the process and timeline visit

If my assessed property value goes up, does the school get more money?

No. Voters approve a maximum that can be spent on a bond. The school district does not receive additional funds. If additional houses are built, the additional taxpayers will share the fixed cost. The potential exists for impact fees from new developments to be collected, the fee schedule and collection is managed by the town and coordinated with the schools.  

how do we know prices won't increase? we keep hearing that public construction projects always cost more than expected?

The role of construction manager is important in this process for both the district as well as the taxpayers. For the district, this firm coordinates all aspects of construction, ensures site safety, and delivers a final “guide to the building” for future usage of systems and maintenance. For the taxpayer (and the district), this firm ensures a guaranteed maximum price for construction. 

The construction manager is required to build to the budget and provide guidance to the design team and owner on how to best achieve a cost competitive facility with monies available. Before demolition or construction starts, ALL costs are fully defined and understood by all parties. 

The dollar amount on the ballot is the high water mark. 

Should the project pass, the construction manager bids the project to subcontractors, agrees to a guaranteed maximum price and is bound to that cost. The construction schedule, preconstruction schedule, and material lead times are understood in advance with schedule contingencies. This is how all projects are managed.  


What is the average life span of a school building?

 Most school buildings are due for renovation around the 50 year mark.

Wilkins is 57 years old, is not large enough to meet current enrollment levels or programming needs, is not ADA compliant, and requires significant renovation to remain in use.

The proposed building will be constructed with durable materials with a target lifespan of 50+ years. 

Other system life spans vary: 

Roof: 30 years

MEP systems: 30 Years 

Flooring: 20 years 

What is the timeline for the elementary construction project?

Phase one includes building the new classroom spaces at the back of the property. Students remain in their current classrooms and schools at this time. Once the classroom portion is complete, the students would occupy those spaces. Construction will begin on the front portion of the building at that time. Two school years will see full construction. If approved in March 2024, groundbreaking would be Summer of 2025.  The new school is projected to be occupied by grades 1-5 for the 2027-2028 school year.

When would the project begin & end?

Should Article 12 pass, design refinement and input sessions for community, staff, administration, and board will take place over the following 10 months. Construction is expected to begin in Summer 2025 with completion in time for the 2027-2028 school year. During construction, all schools will remain open, utilizing current space to avoid rental costs of portable classrooms where possible. 

How has the Amherst School Board changed the project since the March 2022 and March 2023 bond failures?

This past summer, the Board held a retreat dedicated to facilities. At that meeting, in response to community response to the previous proposals, agreed that the new proposal would focus only on Wilkins. This was to address community concerns about the future of the Clark School if it was no longer to be used by the District. By not consolidating the buildings, the Board has addressed this concern. The Board also agreed to reach out to the Souhegan Cooperative School Board to discuss the possibility of a District-wide preschool program in the Annex, to reduce space concerns at Clark and address concerns raised by community members about underutilized space within SAU39. The SCSB, which controls usage of the Annex, declined to move forward with that proposal. Lastly, the Board directed the Administration to take another look at the building design through a programming needs lens. As a result of this effort, the current proposal is an 18% reduction in square footage from the previous proposal. 

The Amherst School Board voted at their January meeting to move the Wilkins School project to Deliberative Session for a March 2024 ballot.  This results in a reduction in cost and scope from the $83.3 million in 2022, and lower than the $54.2 million in 2023, to a proposed $49.9 million in FY2024.


How many students will fit in the new Elementary school?

The core community spaces will accommodate a maximum of 864 students – cafeteria, media center, gynmasium. The classroom space will hold a maximum of 756 students, with room in the design for future expansion should the need ever arise. Building community core spaces slightly larger allows for future growth, planning, and expansion, if needed. This building has been designed with one eye on the present and the other on the future. It is a comprehensive and strategic design, targeted at meeting the needs of today and tomorrow.


What other options did the BOARD consider?


  • Utilizing the Annex: ASB asked SCSB to consider locating a District-wide PreK program in the Annex. This proposal did not move forward at SCSB. The building is also not suitable for middle or elementary uses as it is cut off from all middle and elementary services and would therefore require another layer of administrative and support staffing, resulting in additional staffing costs. Both options would have also required renovations at the Souhegan Campus.  
  • Building new at the district-owned Birch Park site: This site was purchased 20 years ago for a school. The purchase of the land passed, but the construction failed. The site was reviewed by the architect, but secondary egress challenges and extensive site development costs were an obstacle. This site is not suitable for a project of this scale.
  • Acquiring new land: Large tracts and parcels the size required for a school are not readily available in Amherst or are cost prohibitive.  Additionally, the site development cost would be an added increase to the project. 
  • Expanding and renovating onto existing sites: At Wilkins, the existing structure cannot carry the load of a second story addition. It would take extensive reinforcement and restructuring, which are cost prohibitive.  The Board requested cost estimates for a renovation proposal. The cost for a renovation came in at $46 million, only $3 million less than a build-to-suit option, The renovation option would have resulted in a combination of new and old construction, new and old utilities, undersized instructional spaces, and inefficient instructional and support locations.   
  • Using vacant retail space: The notion of using empty retail or office spaces was discussed. Many of these types of spaces provide limited access to the outdoors, which is something the community has voiced as a priority over the years. Costs would be incurred as the buildings would have to be brought to educational codes and standards.  
What happens if we do nothing?

Many of the existing systems within the current school are at, near, or have exceeded their useful life.  To simply stay in the buildings as is will require updates to major systems in the near future. These updates are costly and do not address space constraints, air quality, academic needs, or other major deficiencies of the buildings. In addition, every year the project start is delayed, costs will increase. This will increase the demand to reduce scale or other features. With the passage of every year, taxpayers will pay more and get less for it. 


Will the building accommodate the current enrollment and future growth?

Yes. The design accommodates 7 classrooms per grade plus 3 flexible classrooms located between grade levels. This will allow for flexibility when enrollment dictates the need for an additional classroom for a grade or for any other type of programming. The chosen plan would also allow for future build, and additional classroom space could be constructed, if needed, though professional enrollment projection reports do not anticipate this. 

What are the outside playspaces going to be like?

There will be several outside play spaces. Playgrounds will be located to the south of the building with nearby classroom hallway entrances. The grove area where “over the log” is played will remain. Additionally, there will be space in the back field for additional outdoor classroom spaces. 

Are there hazardous materials in the elementary school?

Yes. There is asbestos that is currently monitored annually via visual inspection and mitigated with an overlay. The proposed plan includes full asbestos removal from the elementary space that will be reused (the multi-purpose room).


The AHERA management plan is based off of the 2019 RPF Environmental report. The district is responsible for reviewing these areas every 6 months and documenting any changes. The areas are sealed during the summer with floor finish as well.

NHDES reviewed Wilkins in July 2021 and provided two hour awareness training to facility staff on August 3, 2021. Six month asbestos reviews are done by trained staff and any changes are to be documented/reported.  


What are the plans for clark school?
There will be no changes to Clark School. PK and K will continue to be located at Clark.  
How will the elementary school be able to serve the community?

School buildings often serve as the center of community life. This is especially true when a dedicated community center is unavailable, such as the case in Amherst. We are excited that the community will be able to utilize the building after school hours. Wilkins will provide several community use spaces at the front of the building accessible and separate from classroom spaces. These will include a full-size gym, library/media center, and the renovated multi-purpose room with stage and mini-gym. 

Are all of the cars now going to enter and exit the elementary from Jones Road?

No. Upon discussing the project, it is clear that alleviating the traffic on Boston Post Road is essential. The loop driveway going around the elementary school will aid in traffic back up. The Jones entrance may be used at specific times for specific purposes. This serves as an exit point for buses in current conceptual renderings. The project design will remove an additional 45 cars from Boston Post Road during pick-up and drop-off times. The project allows provides additional parking for school and community events. 

Has the community been surveyed?

Yes, an initial community survey was conducted in Summer 2020, yielding 1,000+ responses. Building safety and class size ratios ranked highest among survey respondent concerns.   

A survey was conducted in Spring 2022 to inform the Board of future planning. The results of the survey were presented in May 2022 to the Amherst School Board. 

A post election survey was conducted May of 2023. Results from those surveys also helped guide the Board. 


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