A $55,855,000 bond to fund major renovations at the Mount Pleasant School District’s high school and middle school was badly defeated by voters on Saturday.
With all votes, including absentee ballots, counted shortly after 9 p.m., the proposition failed 1,629-713.
Two top school officials agreed that the bond’s hefty price tag was likely the main reason for the trouncing at the polls.
“I think there was a very large contingent of the community who came forward and felt they didn’t want their taxes to be raised and who felt the board would be forced to come out with another bond that had reductions in it,” said a disappointed Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Guiney.
Board of Education President James Grieco concurred that many residents likely reasoned the cost of the bond was excessive.
“I think a lot had to do with people’s taxes, even though we tried to be as fiscally responsible with it as possible,” he said.
Despite the defeat, Grieco said many residents who toured the Westlake Middle School/Westlake High School campus understood the need for upgrades.
“The majority of the people that I spoke to actually said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe the condition that this is in,'” he said. “People saw that things needed to be done.”
However, officials did not receive strong signals either way from the community prior to the vote, Guiney said.
On Saturday night, it wasn’t clear how district leaders would address the capital projects needs at its secondary schools.
“We’ll have to do an analysis and have a conversation and see how we’ll move forward from there,” Guiney said, adding that the district would need to “continue to engage the community because the work still needs to be done.”
Options for the board of education include putting the same referendum up to the voters after waiting at least 90 days, devising a modified bond or paying for the work through the annual budget, Guiney said. The school board will probably discuss how to proceed when it meets on Wednesday evening, she said.
“We’ll reassess the situation and we’ll get together as a board and go back out to the community in regards to feedback, and then we’ll go from there,” Grieco said.
Nearly 70 percent of the cost of the bond would have been devoted to infrastructure and renovations, including work to replace and repair ceilings, classroom floors, lighting and heating and ventilation systems at the two schools.
The bond also proposed funding to improve and expand the high school auditorium, including the purchase of a new sound system and lights, and installing an artificial turf field with lights.
A second access road and additional parking at the campus would have also been funded. Other work called for combining the high school’s two cafeterias into one and the creation of a learning commons. At the middle school there would have been cafeteria renovations.
Parking spaces would have been added at the two elementary schools and there would have been expansion of the student drop-off area at Columbus Elementary School. There were also proposals to make the district more energy efficient.
Saturday’s voter turnout was heavy, about double compared to a typical May budget vote, Grieco said.