Credit: Gabor Degre

Orono residents voted on Tuesday to borrow $16.8 million to pay for new construction and repairs at the town’s school buildings.

In the largest voter turnout for a non-gubernatorial June election in 20 years — a turnout of 9.9 percent — the vote passed in favor of the borrowing package 631-417.

The average tax increase from the bond will be $290 per year for an average home of $170,000, said Brian McGill, chair of the Regional School Unit 26 school board.

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“Our buildings are showing their age,” Superintendent Meredith Higgins said at a public forum in March about the need for the facilities upgrade. “We want to make sure the facilities meet the needs of students for the next 10 to 15 years.”

A 460-seat auditorium, a track and new classrooms at Asa Adams Elementary school and Orono High School are part of the planned facilities upgrades.

At the elementary school, the biggest project will be converting the current shared cafeteria and gym space into a designated gym, and building a new cafeteria. The entrance to the school will also be renovated to make it more secure.

[New auditorium, track and classrooms could be part of $16M in Orono school upgrades]

At the high school, the existing cafeteria, stage and band room will be redone to provide a bigger cafeteria and kitchen. The choir and band room will be moved into a central location to make it more easily accessible.

There will also be four new classrooms at the high school.

The school department has planned to apply for state funding for repairs needed at the middle school.

Construction will likely begin next year and be completed by 2022.

Orono residents also voted 756-281 on Tuesday to approve the public school budget for the coming academic year. They also opted to continue approving their school budgets by referendum each year in a 693-326 vote.