High school officials mull timing of next referendum


By Dave Fidlin


With large-scale factors outside the district’s control in play, Waterford Union High School officials might wait until next year to revisit this spring’s failed referendum.

At the most recent School Board meeting, WUHS officials took a deep dive into the possible reasons the April ballot question — asking residents for the authority to fund $19.75 million in facilities-related improvements — failed on a 2,308-2,097 vote.

Peter Leatherman of the Morris Leatherman Co. was on hand at the meeting, held July 25, and discussed a number of issues related to referendums, including the potential timing of the next one.

In the immediate aftermath of this spring’s vote tally, WUHS officials went back to the drawing board and began contemplating when another referendum could be presented to voters. The upcoming fall general election in November was cited as one possibility.

Leatherman, however, suggested officials hit the “pause” button as next steps are considered for a number of reasons.

The top-of-mind rising fuel prices and inflationary impacts could pose challenges to another referendum this fall, Leatherman indicated. The noisy partisan nature of this fall’s political races also could impact another go at the referendum.

“Wait until next year. It gives you an opportunity to communicate,” Leatherman said. “I think it makes sense to use the fall to tell your story.”

Leatherman, who surveyed residents within WUHS’ geographic footprint early this summer, said there is an openness to a referendum, based on the comments received.

On the whole, residents are satisfied with WUHS and the value it brings to the community, Leatherman said, but they have expressed a desire to have a demonstrated need presented to them to earn such support.

“There is tolerance out there,” Leatherman said. “It’s not necessarily a tax issue.”

Board President Michael Schoenfeld said the information gleaned from the consultant has been instructive.

“This has been very insightful,” Schoenfeld said. “I’m glad we went through this process.”

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