Plans for the new Revere High School avoided a major roadblock on Monday night as the City Council voted 8-2 to approve a $29.5 million loan order to acquire land at the Wonderland site that had previously been selected as the home of the new high school. Councillors Dan Rizzo and Anthony Zambuto voted against approving the loan order, citing fiscal concerns as well as concerns about the location of the site for the new high school.
Zambuto has argued that setting aside the 33 acres of land and taking it off the tax rolls would cost the city up to a billion dollars in revenue over the next half century. “I’m going back on the record again that this is the biggest fiscal mistake in the history of the city,” Zambuto said at the Ways and Means Subcommittee meeting prior to the vote at the regular council meeting on Monday night.
Rizzo stated that he understands there is a need for a new high school, but also cited the financial concerns and the unknowns of building on the Wonderland property. He said he wanted to continue the discussion on the appropriation and suggested the council hold a second meeting on the proposed appropriation.
But with a tight deadline for the project under the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) timeline, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly urged the council to act on the appropriation on Monday night. The MSBA will cover a portion of the total cost of the new high school, although the MSBA does not cover land acquisition costs. “We have a strict deadline that we have to have paperwork to [the MSBA] in December, which means we need to be getting on that land in the next week,” Kelly said. “If we’re beyond another week of getting access to the land, our hope is that this will be voted tonight, that we could file the notice of taking with the state, and that they would approve it, and that we could get on the land next week and start doing soil samples and pieces. The bottom line is we can’t wait until another meeting unless we want to push the whole project out.”
During the site selection process, preliminary figures showed a total cost of slightly under $400 million for a new high school. While the city is eligible for a reimbursement rate from the MSBA of up to 79 percent, there are caps in place and items not eligible for reimbursement; that means the total project cost picked up by the state will likely be closer to 40 percent.
Under the current project timeline, it is expected that students would be in the new high school building in the summer of 2026.
Richard Viscay, the city’s finance director, has stated that the city hopes to pay for the land acquisition and building project without a debt exclusion or Proposition 21/2 override.