Mount Pleasant School District voters resoundingly defeated a major capital projects bond Tuesday night that would have allowed borrowing for infrastructure projects to upgrade Westlake Middle School and Westlake High School.
Proposition 1, which would have authorized the district to borrow up to $34.9 million for myriad upgrades, was defeated 1,292-951, the narrowest margin of defeat of the three propositions.
The remaining two propositions were defeated by nearly 2-1 margins. The second proposition for $4,996,000 to pay for an addition and renovations to the high school auditorium lost 1,405-754. The final one asked voters to build a second access road at the middle school/high school campus for as much as $2,685,000. It was rejected 1,401-741.
“I’m exceptionally disappointed, but the community spoke and I want to say thank you to all of the residents who came out and voted today,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Guiney at a subdued Westlake High School gymnasium moments after the results were announced.
The second resounding defeat for the district in just over four months will force the district to do much of the infrastructure work through the capital projects portions of annual budgets over several years, Guiney said. The district will also undertake a building conditions survey to make a list of infrastructure priorities, she said.
Guiney added that many of the items included in the first proposition will be addressed.
“We will create a master facilities plan and the items that we had proposed will be handled over the next five to 10 years,” she said. “There’s a lot to get done.”
The first proposition would have cost the average homeowner $320 a year. The second and third propositions would have increased tax bills by $46.21 and $23.80 annually.
Guiney said she was confused about the latest bond defeat. Voters also rejected a $55.8 million single-proposition referendum last November by nearly 2-1.
“People came to meetings. We did a survey. We did exactly what the community said and now the community came out and said no again,” she said. “So at this point I really don’t know. The community just doesn’t seem to want anything. They believe it’s going to raise their property taxes.”
In the days leading up to the vote, signs sprouted throughout the town urging residents to vote against the propositions. Guiney said that opponents circulated rampant rumors just before the vote, a pattern that’s occurred with other districts.
“They come out with a lot of rumors and falsehoods right before the election,” she said. “And I believed that the people must have believed that because I can’t understand why a community, after telling the school board and the school district that these are the things that they would support, did not come and support it.”
Some of the rumors included excessive architect’s fees and that there was “fluff in the bond,” Guiney said. The district will address the rumors in the future, she added.
The district will consider how to fund the infrastructure projects after work on next year’s district budget is completed.
Board of Education President James Grieco also expressed his disappointment but thanked those who participated.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people came out to vote,” he said. About one-quarter of the roughly 8,000 eligible voters in the district showed up.
Grieco said while many of the projects must be funded through the annual budgets, the school board must also stay within the tax cap. If a proposed budget exceeds the cap, it would need support from 60 percent of voters for approval.
“I honestly believe that people just don’t want their taxes increased, even though we’ve been tax cap compliant with our budgets,” he said.