Liverpool’s $44.5 million capital project referendum was voted down last week with a ballot count of 1,954 voting “no” and 1,620 voting “yes.” Voters, in large part, rejected the proposal because they felt the cost was simply too high.
“I think most are okay with the project, but not at that price tag,” said district parent Tom Tracy, “and definitely not without a detailed description for every dollar and where it may be going.”
Tracy has been a district resident for 14 years and all five of his children attend Liverpool schools.
“It should have been a no-brainer for this vote,” Tracy said, “but there are too many unanswered questions for me.”
Parent Violet Sanders echoed Tracy’s comments. Sanders has four children in the district, including a future Liverpool Middle School student.
“Like many, I voted ‘no’ as an objection not only to the fact that all of these items were bundled together, but also to the way funds are being managed in our district,” she said. “We’re left holding the bag for some very ludicrous expenditures.”
Sanders cited the failed laptop program and the lawsuit filed against the district by former administrators George Mangicaro and Bonnie Ladd.
Sanders also objected to the “extras” in the project, including the proposed performing arts center between LE and LMS and the increased parking at the high school.
“In worsening economic times, we must be careful to separate ‘need’ from ‘want,'” she said.
Of course, not all parents voted against the project. Sharon Yager was one of the voters who wanted it to pass.
“I was one to vote yes,” said Yager, who is a member of the district’s stadium committee and said she has seen firsthand the need for repairs at the athletic complex. “I think there were people who went there [to the schools and the stadium] and looked around, but didn’t go inside, and they say, ‘Hey, it’s not so bad.’ But that’s not the case. There really is a need for those repairs.”
Yager said she suspected that recent reports of the money the district is spending on the pending lawsuit may have prompted a lot of people to vote against the proposal.
“Unfortunately, maybe with everything else going on, individuals were voting on those issues and not the issues at hand,” she said. “But the safety and education of our children should be a priority. Individuals should vote on that, not who is suing who and who is right or wrong. Vote on the issues, not the players.”
The district reacts
The principals at the schools to receive the most extensive repairs expressed sadness that the vote didn’t pass.
“Certainly, myself and my staff were disappointed,” said Liverpool Elementary Principal Bill Mugridge. “We had a staff meeting the next morning, and the mood was very subdued. People asked a lot of questions, and I don’t know that we really have the answers.”
LMS Principal Bob Gaetano echoed Mugridge’s words, but he said he was encouraged by the number of people who did vote in favor of the project.
“Liverpool voters are very in-tune people,” Gaetano said. “They sent a clear message that they’re unhappy and they need to see some changes, but I am encouraged by the 1600 who voted ‘yes.'”
Now the district and the affected schools have to decide what to do in order to ensure that the necessary repairs at Liverpool Elementary, Liverpool Middle School and the Wetzel Road campus are completed.
Board of Education President Mark Lawson said the board will confer with the district’s architects to come up with a new plan to put before the voters.
“We can’t do nothing,” Lawson said. “These are critical needs. We want as quick a turnaround as possible, because we can’t let these things go anymore.”
“Everything in that package for LE and LMS, educationally speaking, everything is needed,” he said. “The board knows that, and they’re going to keep it in mind when they make their new plans. They’re not giving up on us.”
Mugridge said he’s not giving up, either.
“I’m eligible to retire this year, but I’m not going to,” he said. “I’m passionate about this school. I really believe it’s a way to create a jewel in the center of the village. I’m going to stick around and see this through.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.