A local realtor is worried that the property values in town will drop dramatically as well as the quality of life if the $45 million does not pass and the building is placed on probation.
Curtiss Clemens Sr. has lived in Rocky Hill for more than 27 years, raised three sons in town and owns a business, , in the municipality.
"I have deep roots here in town," he said.
The real estate agent of 26 years was against the referendum in 2008, which included three smaller elementary schools with all-day kindergarten. However, he supported the previous referendum, which did not include all-day kindergarten and had only two elementary schools.
"I think it was too big of a plan at the wrong time," Clemens said about the second referendum. Neither referendum passed.
In the middle of April, the Town Council of whether to renovate and expand the 30-year-old high school to the voters, asking them to decide the project's future at a June 5 town-wide referendum. Clemens is fully behind the plan and is doing whatever he can to help it pass including supporting it financially.
"This is a quality of life issue for the entire town," he said.
The state is expected to reimburse the town about 44 percent of the project's costs, leaving taxpayers here to pay the remaining $28.55 million. The referendum question will include the cost of the separate water boiler for the pool ($64,014) and the addition of 60 parking spaces to the school ($230,452) for total of about $295,000.
According to documents handed out by the town and school system, the average increase in property taxes for a resident with a home valued at $200,000 is between $210 to $254 per year (with a cost of $17.50 to $21.17 per month). The amount of the tax increase is expected to drop each year.
Clemens does not feel the warning will affect the real estate values in town. However, if the referendum does not pass and the school goes on probation, "it will change real estate values in town," he said. Clemens added that if the school lost accreditation, it would "create a mess for this town."
"Just the perception will change to a negative," he said. "Perception is reality."
If the referendum failed, it could affect people moving into town as well, Clemens said. According to the National Association of Realtors, 25 percent of all home purchasers stated the number one priority as schools and another 19 percent ranked proximity of schools as a reason for buying a home. That means 44 percent of all home purchases are due to the school system in town.
Rocky Hill is "extremely popular" for prospective home buyers, Clemens said. He added the "schools are well respected, the tax base is very good, it is convenient and the government is run well."
"Rocky Hill is a highly regarded town," he said.
Local real estate agent and the owner of Pat Hughes could not agree more with Clemens.
"It will have a negative impact on property values," she said.
Hughes, who has been in business for 38 years and has lived in town most of her life, explained that people moved to Rocky Hill for the "good schools, sports programs and Park and Recreation Department." She added people are interested in moving to areas near neighborhood schools such as and .
The high school referendum is a "hot topic," Hughes said and she has already had discussions with people and read realtor reports that indicate people will consider moving out of town if the school is placed on probation.
"People have told me that they will move out of here," said Hughes, who supports the referendum. She added more homes will come on the market, which could be good for business, but the values of the homes will decrease.
Scott Coleman is and said that according to CNN Money, the number one reason that people move into a new town is affordability, not the school system.
In late March, , but was placed on a warning list by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges Inc. Commission on Public Secondary Schools. Clemens said the taxpayers of Rocky Hill should listen to the NEASC warning and make changes to the school before it goes on probation.
"You better damn well take them seriously," he said.
Coleman, who considers himself part of a "silent majority," once again debates that point and stated he has not found any universities in the area that require students to attend an accredited high school for enrollment.
“Test scores drive people to a community not accreditation,” Coleman said.
He has previously called the admissions departments at several universities including Harvard, Yale, University of Connecticut and Middlesex College and none said a student's high school being accredited was a requirement for enrollment.
Clemens said he knows why college admissions office do not worry about high schools being accredited, because all of them already are.
"It only becomes an issue, if you lose it," said Clemens, who is a former Board of Education chairman.
The referendum is "about more than the NEASC warning," for Clemens. He said the building is over 30 years old is not compliant with current fire codes and ADA regulations. He added the building is not energy efficient and needs a new heating/cooling system.
"It's tired," Clemens said about the high school. He added the "educational foot print" of schools has changed and the high school does not meet future federal and state mandates.
Clemens said the building and grounds “get a tremendous amount of use from people outside the school.” There were 2,586 events at the high school last year with 1,177 of them not being school-related.
"It is all about the town," he said. "It is not just about the kids,"
In the end, Clemens remains positive that Rocky Hill residents "will step up to the plate” because there "are a lot of good reasons" to support the referendum.
"I believe in this town and I believe in the quality of life of this town. I believe everyone who lives in this town is concerned with the quality of life in this town."