Turnout was steady into Thursday evening, but voters in Latham ultimately rejected a nearly $200 million capital project that would have renovated the district's schools. Geoff Redick reports.
LATHAM, N.Y. — Voters in the North Colonie School District turned down a proposed $200 million project that would have renovate schoosl, built new athletic fields and imporved district security.
With the highest voter turnout in 30 years, according to district officials, the $200 million capital project was defeated 2,189-1,842. The proposed work was a response to research, suggesting North Colonie will grow by a thousand students over the next decade.
"We must now take their feedback and modify and adjust our proposed project accordingly," Superintendent Joseph Corr wrote in a statement Thursday night. "The fact is, the district still has a very real enrollment increase that must be addressed immediately and expeditiously in order to maximize our state aid and reduce the impact on the local taxpayer."
The project would've come with a delayed 5.9 percent property tax increase, to be phased in beginning in 2022.
Voter turnout was steady throughout the day Thursday, but ticked up at evening commute time with lines out the voting room door at times. The overcrowding and waits were chief concerns of some who criticized the North Colonie School District's voting process as prohibitive. The district says under state law, it was only allowed to open one polling location because it did not "personally register" voters for the capital project vote.
Still, Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners publicly ripped the voting process, saying the singular polling place — combined with the busy time of year and nasty winter weather — amounted to "voter suppression."
Some voters agreed Thursday.
"All of a sudden we have an election, and (voting is) only here?" said Jack Fallon, who voted against on the proposal. "It looked like they were trying to slip one by us."
Earlier in the day, Corr repeated what he had said all week: The process was transparent and open for district residents.
"We had two mailings sent to every resident in the district. We held forums. Just this past weekend, we had a 'Saturday with the Superintendent' where people could come and ask questions," Corr said. "It's unfortunate, but it happens that some people don't get the information they need.
"We'll continue to work with our community," he continued. "We're very happy that they've chosen to come out and participate in our voting process."
Several voters Thursday expressed confidence in the project, saying it was the right time to "reward" the district for its solid education offering.
"I think it's a good long-term outlook for the community," said Alan McLeod. "It may be a slight increase in property taxes, but I think it's worth the trade-off."
The earlies the district can hold another vote on the project is 90 days, according to election law.