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Rocky Hill High School Renovation in Voters’ Hands

A June referendum will determine the fate of the proposed $45 million high school project.

In less than two months, residents here will know whether the  will become 11,700 square feet larger than it is today.

, the Town Council unanimously sent the $45 million question of whether to renovate and expand the 30-year-old school to the voters, asking them to decide the project's future at a June 5 town-wide referendum.

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.

At the Deputy Mayor Timothy Moriarty supported adding the parking spaces and the pool water boiler as well as replacing the ($230,452) and five tennis courts ($320,072). However, he said he received several phone calls and emails over the past few days from residents who said the cost of the renovation was too high and they would not support the referendum.

“I don’t want to see this project fail,” said Moriarty, who got visibly upset throughout the meeting. “I don’t want to make a motion that makes this whole project fail.”

Councilor Frank Szeps said that having the boiler closer to the pool will be more efficient and will lead to savings for the town.

“As for the parking lot, I don’t have to say anything,” Szeps said.

Resident Frank Simboski told those in attendance that he thinks they need at least 3,000 votes to get the referendum to pass and demanded that people take action over the next six weeks to get them.

“It’s not going to happened, if we just assume it will,” Simboski said.

Many councilors said that they would help with acquiring voters who support the project and getting them to the polls on June 5. 

“I support this referendum and I am going to work as hard as I can to get votes,” said Councilor Larrye deBear. Mayor Anthony LaRosa agreed to help as well.

“We can’t correct the past,” he said. “But we can fix the future.”

LaRosa said they needed support from the largest voting group in town, the senior citizens. Some seniors in attendance said that it was time to “pay it forward” and support the referendum because someone paid for their education.

One of the people leading the charge to get more voters in support of the project is “Stay Accredited” Chairman Todd Cusano. The political action committee  made it its mission to garner enough support from residents to pass any referendum question that keeps the high school accredited and addresses the  He said the referendum is more than a school problem, it is a town issue. 

“People from all across town have come together to do something about the high school,” Cusano said. He added that it is “a critical time in the town’s history” and not passing the referendum could affect real estate, the business community and population.

More than 25 parents, residents, seniors and students came to the podium during the one and half hour public hearing to show their support for the project. Many people told the council that they chose to raise their families in Rocky Hill because of the school system.

“Let’s make Rocky Hill a place to move to, not a town to move away from,” said Lisa Brady, mother of two children.

Many parents also informed the council that they had taken their children out of the school system because of failing building conditions. All residents in town still have to pay for those students to attend magnet schools in the area.

An activist group of about 20 students came in support of the referendum and explained the struggles that they face on a daily basis. They explained how students would benefit from many of the items in the NEASC report, such as the HVAC system, chemistry labs, textbooks and ADA standards, being addressed.

“Our goal is to promote the student voice on this issue,” said group organizer James Wang. He explained that no one in his group would ever get to experience the changes in the school.

“It just goes to show how committed we feel to this issue and how we feel responsible to provide a better community for our brothers and sisters,” Wang said.

Many of the council members told the crowd of more than 300 people that they felt the town would pass this referendum because it focuses on the needs in the NEASC report. One of those councilors was Joe Kochanek, who did not support the previous referendums because they were too vague, complex and expensive.

“This time you did a fantastic job,” he told the public and Board of Education. “This thing needs to get done.”

Councilor Nadine Bell said the cost of project is a huge consideration for many of the residents in town. She added that cost of not doing the project outweighs the cost of actually doing the renovation of the high school.

“This is our community building,” Bell said.

charlie April 13, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I'm 58 years old, own property in town and fully support this initiative. The couple of hundred dollars per year in increased taxes is well worth the investment in our towns future which should be built on the educational needs of our residents as one of the main foundational supports of a strong and viable community. Many of our residents are second and third generation townees that love their town and give back by having businesses and being involved in organizations, town government, committees, parks etc. I encourage everyone, even those of us on a fixed income, to find a way to help our town grow strong in the years ahead. We are a growing community with much development ahead and increased population as our farmland gives way to homes. There will be ever increasing school needs. Every 25 years is not surprising but should be anticipated and expected. Ive been in town for 9 years moving from Wethersfield. I moved because the seniors became the voting power and only supported their own initiatives. Now that I'm becoming a senior I urge everyone to see the message we send by not keeping our schools up to date, healthy and as a viable tool toward securing our childrens future as well as our towns future. In a couple of months we'll vote. Please do the right thing this time, I don't want to move again.
Michele April 14, 2012 at 12:29 PM
I agree with Charlie's comments above and would add that the parents who have children in the school systems now, will have children in the school systems or had children who have already graduated from school needs to show their support of this referendum. Don't assume that others will do it for you...make your voice heard and make it count on June 5 by getting to the polls and voting. Bring your kids with you...they should know that you are making this vote for their well-being and their future!
Harry Morgan April 20, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I'm against it, and so is 70% + of the rest of the town. Why do you keep insisting this is chump change? 1st, there is NO State Approval of 40% of the funding, leaving the Residents of Rocky Hill responsible for 45 MILLION, so it's not just a few hundred each year. As you are telling us, it's 250 the 1st year, then 500 the 2nd year, then 750 the 3rd year and this goes on for 15 to 20 years. NOW Double that guesstimate when the State of CT decides to NOT fund 40% of this project. Sure the schools need updates, but for the 3rd time in a row this is the WRONG Plan. Stop minimizing the impact in our pockets. It's not just a few hundred dollars a month and it's not your money to spend. I'm voting no, and will continue to vote no until you figure out a plan that doesn't double or quadruple our property taxes
Attorney Adrian M. Baron April 20, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Let's be frank. Who is going to want to move into a town with an unaccredited high school. When I graduated from RHHS, it was the cream of the crop of area educational institutions. Many of my fellow classmates went on to top colleges and successful careers. The town's education system is the lifeblood of Rocky Hill. A good school system keeps property values up. Look at the problems with New Britain and Hartford schools. And to say that you don't need to graduate from an accredited school to get into a good college is foolish. You might as well tie an anchor around the necks of these kids. If I was an admission's counselor and I had to pick between two similar kids, the one from the accredited school would get the advantage. I owe my career and many opportunities to the great teachers I had in Rocky Hill. Don't squander a great resource. You will regret it.
Michele April 21, 2012 at 02:36 AM
No Harry...it is NOT and additional $250 per year. Please get the facts and stop spreading rumors! Talk about scare tactics...you are just full of them, aren't you?
Harry Morgan April 28, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Michele, read the flyer that was sent to all of us. You can't even tell us which version of a loan, 15 yr or 20 yr? For home owners with assessment values at 200,000 the average increase is 250 the 1st year, then 500 the next, then 750 the next for 15 to 20 years. Many of us have home values much higher than that. How is it a rumor Michele? Whats 20 dollars a month time 12? For the 1st year only btw. If I'm wrong michele, tell me exactly what the tax increase will be and I will consider changing my vote. Will my property taxes go up for the next 15 to 20 years and by what amount. Is state funding approved?
Harry Morgan April 28, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Attorney Adrian M. Baron, A no vote does not make RHHS lose NEASC accreditation. How about this, the people that want this, pay for it, the rest of us, you leave our property taxes alone. Deal? This getting voted down for the 3rd time will force you all to do what is economically feasible for the residents of this town. We are in the worst recession, if not ever in US History. The country is not in recovery, CT has been in a recession for the past 20 years! We just had 2.5 BILLION dollars in tax increases in the state, Gas will be 5 dollars a gallon. Enough is enough... Big deal the 1st year is 20 bucks a month, if that was the end of it, fine. But it's not, Year two is 40 dollars more than what I pay now, Year 3 is 60 a month more than what I pay now, Year 4 is 80 more a month than what I pay now, By year 5 its a $100 more a month than what I pay now. This goes on for 15 to 20 years..... I have not scene or heard that the State of Ct has approved funding this. So at this point, We all have to believe the residents of Rocky Hill will be responsible for up to 60 MILLION, based on the tax increase estimates, we are responsible for 20 something Million right? So if the state doesn't approve, X3 the property tax increase estimate. this is not a "scare" tactic, it's reality. No one can tell us what the exact amount of the increase is, No one is telling us if State Funding has been approved.
Pete Doll May 07, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Double you property taxes, you are very mis informed.
Pete Doll May 07, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Barbara Gilbert can tell you. Go to Town Hall and get the facts.
Jan May 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
When you apply for student loans, the goverment makes sure it is to an accredited school. Accredidation is very important and if you dont have it, the value of every home in that town is affected. Put aside the value of homes, how about the value of your children and gradchildren? Children and teachers should not be in class room that will make them sick (asthma) or taught in closets(special ed). This vote should be a no brainer. IT is so much more than money, its health and the future.
Harry May 17, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Jan, Since when do students apply for government loans to attend High School? What is with all the scare tactics. So this plan fails, then the BOE will be force to come up with a plan that's economically feasible for the residents of this town. Accreditation will not be lost. State EXACTLY line by line an itemized list of what is required for RHHS to keep it's accreditation, and it's associated cost. It does not cost 45 MILLION dollars to purchase books, upgrade labs, 60 parking spaces and a boiler. I didn't have AC in any of the schools that I attended, and believe it or not, I survived.. Vote no or watch your taxes go up up up up up for 20 years
60 N Condor Dr May 17, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Vote no and watch you home value go down and down for 20 years. Harry, Jan obviously means when applying for college loan they check your HS records....This IS an ecomnomically feasible plan. Money has never been cheaper. Rocky Hill;s last capital improvements are due to be paid off, Police station, Senoir Center and Town Hall paid for. Our elected officials of the Town Council and BOE have all approved after working on the issue for 8 years. Mr Morgan it is a little late to be saying you dont like the plan. Of course you know the state can not consider until the referendum is approved, that is why there is a 15 yr and 20 year option, to protect us tax payers. We cost ourselves millions by not approving the first version 7 years ago. If we were smart we would build five new schools right know with or without state aid.
Jan May 17, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Harry, Colleges look for accredidated high schools over non. When I speak about loans, its college loans. You cant get a loan on a non accredited school so accredidation is importand in high school and colleges alike. Any senior citizens living in RH probabaly paid more for their housing than I do. I looked at those over 55 homes. And taxes will go up no matter what, why not make it for a good reason. Children, education, the future of Rocky Hill CT
Harry May 18, 2012 at 01:17 PM
60 N Condor Dr, home values will not go down, a no vote will force the BOE to come up with a plan that is more economically feasible to the residents of this town. A plan that all the schools are included and not some scheme to pass 1/2 of a plan this year and 1/2 of a plan next year costing 120 MILLION dollars. I obviously got what Jan was saying... Money has never been cheaper?? You mean my money? The residents of rocky hills money? the residents of the state of CT's money??? You need to realize something. IT'S NOT YOUR MONEY TO SPEND, IT'S NOT YOUR CREDIT CARD TO SPEND AT WILL PUTTING FINANCIAL BURDENS ON GENERATIONS TO COME. CT is 39 BILLION dollars in debt. The country is 16 TRILLION in debt and money has never been so cheap... Build all the schools you want, leave my taxes alone or reduce them. I pay close to 10 grand in property taxes a year. This will force me to put my house up because I will not longer be able to afford my mortgage. I won't be the only one, property values will tank because of the abundance of homes on the market not moving. It's not your money to spend.
Harry May 18, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Jan, I got what you were saying, but a no vote will not cause RHHS to lose it's accreditation, it will be put on probation. Forcing the BOE to come up with a plan that is more economically feasible to the residents of Rocky Hill and not some scheme to pass the same plan that failed 4 to 1 in 2010.
60 N Condor Dr May 18, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Home values have already gone down Harry. Good luck selling. The towns needs schools, the BOE and the Counsel have approved this as the BEST plan. I am not spending on a credit card, I am voting to invest in my towns future, not your towns down fall. We have very low tax rates compared to neighboring towns. Let me know when you move I will bring the truck!!!!!
60 N Condor Dr May 18, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Harry, Cheap money is a reference to interest rates but of coures you knew that didnt you.
60 N Condor Dr May 18, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Harry it sounds like you are living above your means. Maybe you bought more house than you can handle. it would be hard to take advice from you seeing how you can not handle your own finances. Harry, I dont know why you hate this town so much and why you are trying to hurt her. But I love Rocky Hill, married a RH girl and hope to die in my home. No one wants to pay higher taxes, but this is a need as much as roads, street lights and a police force.
Harry May 18, 2012 at 04:10 PM
60 N Condor Dr, why am I not surprised by the personal attacks, have I once wished for a vote yes'r to move? It amazes me, well it doesn't, but when you lose the argument you attack the messenger. So what happens if the town budget is adopted May 21st? The MILL rate goes from 24.5 to 25.8, and what happens if the ref passes? the MILL rate jumps to 27.0. That means for the average home in Rocky Hill, Taxes shoot up 10.2% in ONE YEAR with steady increases over the next 15 to 20 years... Come up with a plan that is economically feasible to the residents in Rocky Hill and maybe you'll get your yes vote
Jan May 18, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Sorry Harry, But 60N Condor has it right. You HAVE to invest in your town otherwise it will fall apart. Nobdy wants to have to leave this town but many will if our schools are not up to par. Our taxes are really not bad. Coming from Long Island myself, its a fraction of what they pay. If people run the town goes down immediatly. I too want to stay in this wonderful town and want to keep it wonderful.
Harry May 18, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Jan, are we not already investing in our Town? The schools will be fine eventually, just not with this referendum. Ask 60 N Condor Dr in a few years when he's paying 7000 dollars a year in property taxes if he feels the same.
Jaclyn Farnham May 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I would love to invest in the schools and for the most part I am for the renovations, however, I don't trust this Town Management one bit. This Town has been mismanaged for years..hence the state we are in. If we booted the main problem, I would feel more comfortable supporting this initiative. I have a child in high school, though, and I don't think its fair to ask every citizen to contribute as much. With the new low income houseing planned on Brook Street, we will be paying for a lot more less fortunate kids to attend our schools. This is what they are really planning for. Let the developers subsidize - this mismanaged Town would never think to negotiate that. They make millions and we are all struggling.
Carm May 20, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I agree with you jan, our children are the future and without a high school that is accredited , it doesn't matter how great their grades are they won't be accepted to a good college. And that I will not stand for. So I have to pay another town to teach my kids !!! I don't think so, stop being selfish and help our kids !!!
Nate May 26, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Why does the school need to renovated as new? What i would like to see is the list of problems that need to be fixed to keep the accreditation and the prices to solve these problems. Is there really a need for 5 more culinary labs? A vote no does not mean a loss of accreditation, it just means that the town needs to think of a different plan, such as just fixing the problems affecting the accreditation. They could also plan renovations the way my school in West Hartford does it: renovate a part of the school each year. For example, last year my school renovated all the classrooms in one hallway, this year they are renovating the auditorium. This plan is not the smartest way to go. From reading this thread however, i think the most important thing you need to realize is that you do not need to completely "renovate as new" to keep the accreditation. Another thing to point out is that just because the school is new and fancy that does not mean the test scores and college acceptances will improve.
Pete Doll May 29, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Nate, the point of renovating as new is to take advantage of state funds. to fix just the "accreditation" issues would cost about 10-12 million and there would be no state aid. Then we would be left with a 33 year old school and all the issues that go with it. To fix as new, we will get as much state money we are allowed and set the high school up for thirty years which is the best plan for tax payers dollars. for instance, the parking lot is not on the accrediation list yet it still needs repair. Why not get the state to pitch in?
Harry May 29, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Pete, take advantage of state funds??? Ok, so it will cost the town 12 Million to fix the issues, but instead you want to spend 10 more MILLION that the town residents will be responsible for in order to get 23 MILLION from the state, which by the way, WE ALL LIVE IN and are responsible for as well. This is a complete and utter joke. So for the next 15 to 20 years are taxes cost us $250 + more a year, and to put that in perspective, you are raising our taxes a $1000+ every 4 years compared to what we pay today. This does not include any budget increases. This is not right. no way I can vote yes for this, completely unfair and I hope residents are paying close attention to this and are not being bullied into a yes vote. Vote no or watch your taxes skyrocket and force you to move. No one will want to live here

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