For many residents of Rocky Hill, the was a victory for the town, but for others it was a representation of more of the same old thing.
About six months ago, resident Frank Simboski said that Stay Accredited needed to gather about 3,000 . He was right.
On Tuesday, 3,047 people voted in favor of the bond referendum, which means the high school will be renovated as new. A record number of 4,197 of the 11,129 with 1,150 voting in opposition to project, according to official numbers from the registrar of voters.
"It is easy to put out a fire," Simboski said about the referendum vote. "It is the time to get a list of what we need have to prioritized next."
The political action committee "" members, joined by teachers, parents, the board of education and councilors, held up signs and advised people to vote in support of the high school renovation project at the three polling places all day Tuesday.
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"We started as a community campaign and the results of the referendum reflect this," said Chairman Todd Cusano. "It speaks to the value of our town."
He said he is happy with the results of the referendum, but he was also upset with the fact that the 30-year-old building is in such disrepair.
"I think it sends a clear message to town hall about the town's priorities," Cusano said. "When you have these kind of results, it is unfortunate. Nearly all our elected officials were on the sidelines including Mayor (Anthony) LaRosa."
Board of education Chairwoman Raffaella A. Coler wanted to thank all the young parents, mothers and members of the political action committee for getting the word out about the referendum.
"This is an united front, which everyone should be proud of," she said.
Someone who is not happy with the results of the referendum is senior Rich Laria. He was one of the people because of the tax increase, overspending by the board of education and extra items being added to the project that were not included in the NEASC report.
"It is unexpected," he said about the referendum passing. "It's a travesty that the high school was in such disrepair."
Laria said the need for is nothing new. And he added that the items should have been taken care of in previous board of education budgets over time, a statement shared by many members of the Stay Accredited group.
"It is a travesty. I think it goes behind the referendum," Laria said. "There should not have been a political action committee. (State Rep.) Tony Guerrera and (state Sen.) Paul Doyle should not be campaigning for the referendum. They should be supporting all the voters."
Guerrera, who was with Stay Accredited members at the Tuesday night, said the public understood the ramifications if the referendum did not pass. If the high school was placed on probation, have said it would decrease property values in town, the stated it could and administrators feel it could hurt students’ chances of getting into colleges.
"No one wants to see taxes go up," said Guerrera, who started chanting "it's over" after the first votes were read from the . "But, the impacts could be much worse."
Now that the referendum has passed, Chuck Zettergren, director of finance and operations for Rocky Hill Public Schools, and Mark Winzler will spend the next few weeks preparing the paperwork (which is attached as a PDF) that has to be filed with the state. According to Winzler, the paperwork is very extensive and "every 'I' needs to be dotted and every 'T' crossed."
The board of education also has to formally , which have been reviewed by the town council and changed since its last meeting. The council has to establish a building committee, authorize the preparation of the schematic drawings and outline specifications and authorize the filling of the grant application.
As for Laria, he said that he will be watching the board of education, especially at budget time. Since the referendum passed, he does not want the town or board of education to raise taxes next year because of the impact on seniors who are already facing a "tax increase of between 11 and 12 percent."
"It was a 'let's beat them' attitude. It was us versus them," said Laria, who stated that lacking of funding by his group was one of the reasons that the referendum passed.
According to documents distributed by town and school officials, 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.
The state is expected to reimburse the town about 44 percent of the project's cost, leaving Rocky Hill taxpayers to pay the remaining $28.55 million.