BEDFORD — The school board received two petitions last night to hold a special election, less than two weeks after voters rejected a joint proposal for a Bedford public high school and 20-year contract agreement with Manchester schools.
The rejection of Article 3, which received 56 percent voter support March 9 but failed to reach the 60 percent requirement, left the town with its standing three-year high school contract with Manchester and $10.6 million to pay over the next two years.
Bedford residents would face a $4.64 tax rate increase per $1,000 of assessed property under the current agreement, past school board President Sue Thomas has said.
Michele D. Corcoran, president of the Bedford chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, submitted an anticipated petition with 1,000 signatures on behalf of her organization seeking a simple majority vote on a 20-year contract before the May 30 deadline that Manchester set to renew the contract.
Another resident, Gus Garceau, submitted an independent petition, which he said “essentially” asks for a special election to let residents vote on Article 3 again.
The school board, under leadership of new Chairman Paul Brock, postponed consideration until Thursday. Members plan to meet with their attorney in a closed session at 6 p.m. and go into public session at 7 p.m.
Corcoran said a special election would be held regardless of the school board’s decision with a court order.
“We don’t need the support of the school board,” she said. “It’s a citizens’ petition.”
Many other residents spoke, including Haig Yaghoobian, the lead advocate for the proposed private Bedford Academy.
He asked the school board to form a committee to look into the academy proposal since Article 15 passed, requiring the board to explore a private, nonprofit secondary school as an alternative to sending Bedford students to Manchester.
“This delivers an unequivocal mandate that you study our design seriously,” he said.
Another resident, Lisa Heaps, told the board to let the March 9 election results stand.
“Allowing a special election sets a dangerous precedent for the future,” Heaps said. “This petition for a new election makes a mockery of the election we just had.”
Manchester previously granted Bedford a one-year extension to renew its contract to continue sending Bedford students to Manchester West High School. Brock said Bedford could receive another extension, but said the board must act as though it still has the May 30 deadline.
Joleen Worden, a member of the High School Planning Committee, placed blame for Article 3’s failure on “the unwise greed of a few power-hungry dictators” and said if the Bedford Taxpayers Association had not withdrawn its support of two pro-high school groups, the article would have passed.
Nineteen others also spoke.
Garceau’s submitted warrant article for a requested special election asks for appropriation of funds, which would require a 50-percent voter turnout, and bonding to pay the $10.6 million bill to Manchester, which would require 60 percent support if the quorum is met.
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