With votes cast during the state referendum held on Tuesday, Nov. 7, residents of the five towns in RSU 40 overwhelmingly struck down the $81 million capital bond improvement project proposed by the school board.
“The turnout speaks volumes,” said Waldoboro Town Manager Julie Keizer. In Waldoboro, about 80% of voters cast ballots against the bond, 1,537-393, according to unofficial results provided by the town office.
“The voters spoke pretty convincingly in opposition of the bond,” said Brian Race, RSU 40 facilities director. “It’s certainly disappointing, but not surprising.”
The proposal failed in all five RSU 40 towns. Friendship voted against the measure 415-139; Warren, 1,023-353; Washington, 416-184; and Union, 775-296; according to unofficial results.
Race said he felt that the narrative surrounding the bond had been misconstrued by town officials including the Waldoboro select board.
That “false narrative … resonated with the voters, particularly those that were already concerned about their taxes going up,” Race said.
Keizer disagreed, saying that “residents did their homework” about what the proposal entailed.
“The select board and the concerns that they expressed were reacting to what the people of Waldoboro were telling them,” she said.
Keizer and Race both acknowledged that the people of Waldoboro expressed hesitation about the large sum of $81 million requested in the bond proposal.
“A comment that was repeated to me quite a bit, which I shared with (RSU 40 Superintendent) Steve Nolan, was the fact that people felt that school administration and the school board were out of touch with the people of Waldoboro,” she said.
Race said that he still believed that the items listed on the proposal were “absolutely necessary” improvements for the schools in RSU 40. The board of directors will move forward to find a solution, he said, suggesting that this may involve developing a new package to present to voters at the next referendum in June.
Keizer said there was “a missing link” between school board members, school administration, and the town managers and select boards of all RSU 40 towns. An honest conversation between all parties is an essential step as the district finds an alternative path forward, she said.
“We need to figure out, as the leaders in the community, how to accomplish what we need to accomplish and do it in a way that’s not hurting our own residents … and I’m hopeful that will happen,” she said.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the RSU 40 Board of Directors will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, at the central office at 1070 Heald Highway in Union.