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High School Referendum Passes By Three to One Ratio

More than 3,000 residents turned out in support of the $45 million renovation as new high school project.

Rocky Hill will have a newly renovated .

After countless hours of campaigns, debates and meetings, more than 4,000 residents turned out to vote on the , and 3,047 support the project.

According to unofficial numbers, 3,047 people voted in favor of the bond referendum Tuesday while 1,150 voted in opposition.

In the end, 4,197 of the 11,129 in the referendum, according to unofficial numbers. The voter turnout is more than 37 percent, which was slightly more than the amount of voters who participated in a similar 2010 referendum, which saw 4,005 or 35.7 percent of people vote.

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Board of Education members, teachers, parents and councilors joined members of the political action committee "" to hold signs and advise people to vote in support of the high school renovation project at the three polling places.

“I think we need it. It is 20 years late,” resident Walter Wutsch said after casting his vote earlier in the day. Wutsch added that renovation of the building was “long overdue” and felt the project should have been done in smaller amounts over several years.

“They did nothing for many years,” he said. “It has got to get done.”

However, not everyone supported the project. Resident Joan Willey stopped to talk to members of the “Stay Accredited” group earlier in the day at the . Willey said that some people in town are on a fixed income like her and that the anticipated increase in taxes to pay for the school improvements would cost her a paycheck (about $200) each month.

“I just wanted you to know why some of us were not supporting it,” she said.

Willey was not alone in her concerns as several residents, who declined to be identified, said that they did not support the referendum because of tax concerns.

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.

In late March, the 30-year-old building , but was placed on a warning list by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges Inc. Commission on Public Secondary Schools. The project that was approved Tuesday night is expected to address all the concerns in the which included increasing the number of science labs, making the school ADA complaint and updating the HAVC system.

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Michele June 06, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Good job Rocky Hill residents...now we should see some results!
npr June 06, 2012 at 01:17 AM
And optimism wins!
Jennifer June 06, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Very happy to read the news that the referendum passed! Thank you to all the voters who supported this much needed improvement to the high school and our community. A special kudos to the Stay Accredited PAC, job well done!
Kelly June 06, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Is this correct? "Willey said that several people in town are on a fixed income like he and that the anticipated increase in taxes to by pay for the school improvements would cost her a paycheck (about $200) each month." It sounds like Willey thinks the increase in taxes would cost her $200 a month vs. the average $200 per year. If she was misled with false information, no wonder those on a Fixed income were opposed. I'm just relieved that the referendum passed!!! Way to go Rocky Hill!!!
Taxed too much already June 06, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Apparently the good people in Rocky Hill don't watch the news. The state passed the largest tax increase in history and they are still not making their budget. Here is my prediction. The 44K cost will over-run by 30%. Then the state will hold back and not be able to send more than 12 leaving the smart voters of RH to pay nearly twice the forcast cost per month. The average tax pay will end up with a 6% property tax rate before it is done. Time to vote with your feet.
Rich June 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM
It seems ironic that this referendum was passed for the “youth” of Rocky Hill. Chances are they will graduate from our “newly renovated ‘as new’ High School “and will then go on to an excellent college because their High School was NEASC accredited. Unfortunately, they will then settle in another state because the taxes in CT are “way too high”. Amen!
Allison June 06, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Dear Taxed, while I agree, I just wonder what the alternative is/would be. The longer you wait to fix it, the more costly it will be. So unfortunately, we don't have a choice. I think the bigger concern is that we keep electing the same people into our town government, who do nothing to decrease other spending and do nothing to plan for the future. This should have been planned for a long time ago, but it wasn't. So, unfortunately it has come to a point where we have no choice. Well, wait...we do. We can move, we can rent, or we can suck it up and start planning now for the next series of repairs we need to do on town buildings. Oh the many blessings of owning a home.
Pat June 06, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Rocky Hill finally wakes up does what is right for a change. Next step is the Town Council which has way to many life-time Town politicians. Time for new blood.
Joan & Joe June 06, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Pat I am with you. We definitely need new blood. Residents need to wake up and run for these positions in 2013...
Jane June 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Alison, I agree with you but the solution was to cut this project by taking out what could be done over the next five years in the town annual budget. School alarm systems and replacing ceiling panels should not be part of our long term debt. I had no problem with building new science classrooms and I agree it needs more air conditioning, but expanding the cafeteria and kitchen - that is not needed. I keep saying this school was built for 1000 students, something the town chose to ignore. If we had cut this project to needed items, we would have the money for Stevens, West Hill and Griswold. Now, I fear any attempt to ask for more money for anything will be received with a big no. I wasn't averse to a tax increase, I just do not want to pay for interest on a loan for items the town can fund in the annual budget.
Jane June 06, 2012 at 07:03 PM
One more item, our tax base is decreasing. Kohl's is not renewing their lease of the building because they thought other businesses would be established in the area.
Pete Doll June 06, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Although they may be mis-informed, the fear of being able to afford meager standards of living is very real for all our residents on fixed incomes as well as those unemployeed or under employed. Our seniors must never be taken for granted and should be treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve. 35% of RH residents are over 55 and that percentage will go up each year. The next referendum will be much harder to pass which is a shame because the others schools need so much help.
Pete Doll June 06, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Actually Rocky Hill has a great number of residents who have graduated and stayed in town. My wife is fourth generation Rocky Hill and my kids are fifth!!!!
Pete Doll June 06, 2012 at 07:19 PM
1000 students was the 1979 quote. It would not hold 1000 kids for a 21st century education. Things change. I say no more books, give a kid a Kindle in 1st grade and he/she can download books for their entire education. Could that save money?
Allison June 07, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Couldn't agree more. They have accomplished nothing that benefits the whole town. They are wasting money (i.e. the Church Street redo) and it's time for an overhaul.
Allison June 07, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Jane, you make some valid points and I'd love it if we could go back. On the other hand, doing a half-a$$ed job is not the solution either. The fact of the matter is the town had no plan back in 1981 for what they were going to do to keep all the schools up to date. Their plan did not involve children improvements and their solution to all of our issues is to tax us to death. There's nothing we can do about what they've done, or how they've done it, except to find new blood and vet them BEFORE voting for them. And while I know that my next suggestion would require a change to the town charter, if town residents were allowed to vote on the budget proposal, our government would more than likely receive a rude awaking when it was suggested.
Jane June 07, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Allison, A couple of things bother me because someone is really going to have to stay on top of the town and the BOE. These examples of problems started right after the school was built and the school started down a path that has brought us to a 40M project. he problem with the moisture in the pool area was caused by the town. They were supposed to use the doors along the pool deck to ventilate the area - opening them when the pool was open; weather permitting, Instead, they locked the doors and kept the doors open to the school lobby. This let moisture into the school creating more problems in the future. They also changed the way the dampers and vents set because they thought they knew more than the HVAC engineers that designed the system. The problems with the air conditioning are because, they were supposed to keep the internal air/cond classrooms doors closed. They wanted to try to cool the hallway, so they left the doors open which overburdened the system and we have higher costs for utilities. The area in front of the school was done with beautiful pavers, other towns use them on their sidewalks, but the town here wouldn't do anything special for the High School and kept their blade low and used a plow and snow blower on the area. Within two years the areas was self destructing. The town will never say this is what caused the problems, but this was explained to them several times. I will add another comment to finish this thought..
Jane June 07, 2012 at 03:43 AM
The committee that worked to get the project passed, needs to stay together and develop a team that is willing to go to every meeting about the school. Building committee meetings, opening of bids, tours, everything. The need to make sure it is completed in a way that the requires the least amount of maintenance. They also need to understand the ins and outs of the school. Only with this, can we make sure, the town maintains the school and doesn't let this happen again. It can be a great experience especially if it aligns with your profession. It is a lot of work but it is worth it, the only problem is people don't want to do this after their kids leave the school system. Lastly, this is not the fault of the people who work for the town, these problems were started 30 years ago. Please don't barrage the people that devote their lives to our schools and town buildings. We need to go forward and do the best job of making any new work on our schools, as maintenance free, without the need for compliance by the teachers or other people. That means as many functions as possible should be automated. .
Jane June 07, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Allison, I just saw your note about voting on the town budget. Several towns in this state do that and what has happened is they can't get it passed. They end up without a budget and keep having to go back for another vote. Suffield and Hebron vote on their budgets and I know Suffield has spent summers trying to get a budget passed. I don't think any town has yet found the best way to manage town and school budgets.
Allison June 07, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I agree with you 100%. It is a great concern of mine, that now that our town government is in charge of getting paperwork submitted and the schemetics and drawings approved and timelines approved etc....that while they supported the "vote", they didn't do much to show their approval in the form of action. I worry they will drag their feet, miss deadlines and somehow manage to delay this action or otherwise screw it up. They will have to be watched very carefully and it should be by individuals from both sides of the coin. Those that were for the plan, and those who were against. That way the eye really is on the prize.
Allison June 07, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Jane, I know. But our town has some really stupid spending in its budget and I think with the town having a voice, the councils would at least have to explain and rationalize their decisions. This Church street redo really upsets me as does some of the hiring practices and at least from what I can see, they don't have to account for their decisions. I don't know what the solution is, I just think what we have right now is extremely ineffective and needs to change.
Harry June 07, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Congrats Stay Accredited, you finally bullied your way to get what you wanted.. Now you all have to figure out how to pay for it. Our mill rate TODAY is 25.9 and this is without the recently passed 45 MILLION dollar Ref. Pete Doll talks about scare tactics, but NO one can tell us how this is going to fully affect our property taxes. The flier said taxes would go up 254 a year and decrease a tiny bit yearly. YET no one can say, is that mill rate, plus 254 a year or is that 254 on top of the previous year over the next 15 to 20 years? And then, Part II for the next 50 MILLION. Essentially within a few years the mill rate in this town with be aprox 32 mils. Try bringing in businesses. There won't be a new school for 10 years at least, but you all will start paying through the nose starting in 2014. Its great for you that you got this passed, but now businesses will fail or leave and homeowners who have had enough will move. The economic depression continues for CT, but hey, as long as the kiddies have AC, parking spaces and can compete in the "global economy" which means, buying the latest xbox or iphone/ipad because we no longer do anything but buy stuff in America.. Good luck... My tax dollars will not be helping you...
M Durkin June 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Harry, you don't know me personally and have no right to call me a bully because I joined Stay Accredited to educate myself on the NEASC warning and conditions of the schools. Shame on you. My father once said that feeling sorry for yourself is the worst disease; words you might take to heart. As voters and residents, we all have the responsibility of ensuring this project stays within budget. Harry, we don't need luck, we need residents committed to remaining involved, educating themselves by attending meetings, and holding elected officials responsible for administering fiscally prudent budgets. You say that your tax dollars will not be helping the schools; I wish you the best of luck wherever you may go.
Jane June 07, 2012 at 05:20 PM
1) The solution is to get involved and run for office. 2) I thought the church street redo is being done with grant money. The same type of grant that improved the facades of all the businesses on the Silas Deane Hwy. I think they have another grant to do more of the facades on the highway.
Harry June 08, 2012 at 05:54 PM
M Durkin, You are a Bully and a LIAR, YOU all either did this on purpose or you were all not bright enough to figure out how horrible this plan is over all for the town and it's residents. RHHS would NOT lose accreditation with a no vote and our taxes are going up MUCH more then the 250 you told us about and now YOU all want to work the NEXT referendum. Call the town hall and ask them what the affect will be on our taxes, THEY DON'T KNOW. When you tell the residents that it's going to cost 250 more a year, you do say if it's + 250 on top of the previous year and you can't provide an exact amount. Where you got feeling sorry for yourself I have no idea, I'm a realist and you all just destroyed Rocky Hill. You will see, Because you passed it, no one will come, when you build it, you will have the halls filled with kids from Century Hills and all the other appt complexes around town.. So you'll fund this with car property taxes???
Jane June 09, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Harry, if you can't communicate without attacking people, I will mark your comments as inappropriate. The town doesn't know what the increase will be and neither do you. Continuing this verbal attack on people will do nothing but degrade everyone's opinion of you. Then at the next referendum, no one will listen to you, right or wrong. One statement to you, how dare you consider the people who live in apartments in Rocky Hill; second class citizens. They pay their taxes in their rent and the owners of the properties are listed as paying the most taxes. Like it or not if Rocky Hill was completely single family homes, are taxes would be outrageous. The vote is over, now is the time to make sure we get our money's worth by ensuring the building is as maintenance free as possible and the town starts maintaining the schools, even if it means we pay a little more along the way. It will stop referendums that include maintenance items.
Beth T June 10, 2012 at 12:05 AM
What's wrong with having the halls filled with kids from Century Hills? Century Hills the 4th largest taxpayer in Rocky Hill.
Harry June 11, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Jane, I call it for what it is. They told us that the increase is 254 a year on a home that's assessed at 200,000. This can not be comfirmed, means they lied. They used scare tactics, Neasc accreditation and property values, neither of which were true. They all bullied there way into getting a vote because most people don't pay attention and just trust that local gov will do the right thing. OBVIOUSLY they can't hear in Rocky Hill. Again, the State lab on west st cost 40 Million. It's 3 RHHS's. Every school in town could have received updated with this ref, not just one. It's not fair. It's not fair that residents with no children have to foot the bill for families with 3, 4 5 kids, don't get me wrong, I don't mind chipping in but when my tax bill = my mortgage, something is very very wrong here. But again, all this is pretty much mute for me and many others that will be leaving. We've already started looking where the rest of CT folks go when they are sick of the blue insanity going on here. CT will never recover with current leadership. Rocky Hill will not have a state of the art school system for many many many years, yet taxes will be through the roof. No one will want to move here. High taxes and no schools, just union workers padding OT. Love Socialism
Harry June 11, 2012 at 01:48 PM
ugh, wish there was an edit button ;o)
Harry June 11, 2012 at 02:04 PM
2300+ square foot home in Wake County NC, built 2006, almost an acre of land, 195K for the home, can prob pick it up for 170. And property taxes are, ding ding ding $1449 dollars a year, with a tax assessment of 232K Few more years here and then no mortgage and 100 bucks a month for property taxes. Those with money will leave, those with hands open, crying, it's just a few pennies a day, will look around to find no one is left to fund this idiocy. Seriously, how do other states do this with such low taxes? 20 years ago my father told me to get out of this state, but silly me, I love it here, but I can no longer justify the cost.. We could live in Hawaii or Cali for the same col.

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