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Crestwood voters nix expansion

About 85 percent of those who voted on referendum opposed borrowing $55M.

Earnest Kopko votes Tuesday in the Crestwood special election with the help of Bob Bogacki at the Fairview Township polling place.

Aimee Dilger/the times leader

Nancy Katany places her ‘no’ vote at the Fairview Township Community Center on Tuesday for the proposed school addition/renovation. Katany said she voted no because ‘she has lived here a long time and taxes are already too high.’ About 85 percent of the turnout opposed the borrowing for the project.

Aimee Dilger/The Times Leader

WRIGHT TWP. – The Crestwood School District referendum to borrow $55.7 million for expansion of the high school/middle school crashed like a test tube bumped off a lab room table Tuesday, with nearly 85 percent of voters saying no to the plan.

The special election referendum failed by huge margins in every precinct. The best it could muster was a bit more than 19 percent of the voters in Wright Township Ward 2 voting yes. The worst defeat came in Dorrance Township, where less than 7 percent of voters said yes. All results are unofficial.

Average turnout in the 10 precincts was 42.4 percent of eligible voters. The best showing was in Slocum Township, where half the 676 registered voters went to the polls, 88 percent voting no. The poorest turnout was in White Haven, where 33 percent of registered voters got to the polls.

All told, unofficial results had 827 voting yes and 4,576 no.

The referendum was the culmination of nearly three years of discussion and debate by the School Board, with an initial proposal of only the expansion, which prompted some residents to question how long the new space would be sufficient. Projections show the school would be at capacity by 2016 even with the expansion.

The board then had architects draw up a second proposal for a new high school at a cost of about $72 million, and held a phone-in survey that didn’t draw much participation. Among those who called, most preferred neither option. Among those who picked, the expansion was favored.

The referendum was mandated by law because the district cannot borrow the $55.7 million without exceeding a state debt ceiling. By putting it up to voters, it became “electoral debt,” which does not count toward the debt limit.

Board members have said they are looking at other options if the referendum failed, but they have yet to offer specifics. The referendum was held under the rules of the state Local Government Unit Debt Act, which says that if voters reject the referendum, “another election for the same purpose may not be held until 155 days have elapsed since the prior election.” In the meantime, “no bonds or notes may be issued ... for such purpose.”

Unofficial results by precinct: Dennison Township, 28 yes, 245 no; Dorrance Township, 46 yes, 611 no; Fairview Township, 217 yes, 946 no; Nuangola Borough, 26 yes, 162 no; Penn Lake Park, 16 yes, 77 no; Rice Township, 135 yes, 699 no; Slocum Township 37 yes, 307 no; White Haven, 43 yes, 178 no; Wright Township ward 1, 93 yes, 590 no; Wright Township ward 2, 186 yes, 761 no.

The failed referendum was the culmination of nearly three years of discussion and debate by the Crestwood School Board.

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