WINSLOW — The Town Council and the school board will have to work together to find a compromise now that the controversial $10.33 million bond for school renovations and consolidation failed at the polls.

Despite Tuesday’s vote against the proposal by a 202-vote margin, construction seemingly is still necessary to consolidate Winslow schools into a two-school system and close the 89-year-old junior high building, which officials say has been deemed hazardous and too costly to repair.

The proposed bond would have renovated the elementary school, added 20,000 square feet to the high school and constructed a performing arts center, among other things. It also including demolition funds for the junior high building, if necessary. The school board has voted to close the junior high school by 2019 and send sixth-graders to the elementary school and seventh- and eighth-graders to the high school.

Officials and residents said Wednesday the bond proposal failed because it could have raised taxes, a prospect that prompted some voters to campaign against the issue with signs saying “No on #1, reasonable responsible renovation.” Competing signs in favor of the bond called on residents to “save our schools.”

Daniel Smith, a parent of two children at the junior high school, said he voted against the bond for that very reason. The declining student population doesn’t justify the large price tag, he said.

In the 2015-16 school year, the junior high had 270 students, according to the Department of Education. This year, there are 273 students.

But other parents, such as Bill Esterline, think the town is just delaying the cost.

“I think we’re just kicking the can down the road,” he said.

The Town Council meets next at 7 p.m. Monday in the Town Office, where it will discuss how to move forward now that the bond has been voted down, according to Chairman Steve Russell.

“I think it’s safe to say that most people are in agreement that the middle school has to close,” Russell said Wednesday. “And now I think that most people are in agreement that $10.3 million is too much.”

The council will meet with the school board to hash out a compromise, Russell said, and councilors probably will have two options: Send the bond to referendum again in June or pass the bond themselves.

Councilors will have to decide which way to move the bond forward. If they wait until a referendum in June, it most likely will slow the process and could extend the time students have to stay in the junior high school, which administrators have called a “ticking time bomb.”

“I kinda wish we didn’t have to be in this school anymore,” Braden Laramee, a seventh-grader at the school, said after classes ended Wednesday afternoon.

Ron Whary, chairman of the school board for Winslow, which is part of Waterville-based Alternative Organizational Structure 92, said he was only “somewhat” surprised by the outcome of Tuesday’s vote of 1,258-1,056 against the measure.

“I think it was a tax issue,” Whary said, “and it was pressed pretty hard by some people.”

The building committee that recommended the plan to the school board did its job, he said, and the board will continue working on the issue until a compromise is reached so that the schools can be consolidated as planned.

Peter Thiboutot, acting superintendent of AOS 92, said that it’s obvious people are concerned about the tax rate, and that the district will try to communicate better what needs to be done and how that affects costs in the future.

For example, some people expressed concerns about the nearly $3 million performing arts center renovation under the bond proposal that would have upgraded the auditorium from 200 seats to 600 seats. But construction in that area was already necessary to maintain arts programming in the school, Thiboutot said.

“All of those pieces kind of go together,” he said. “That’s what needs to be further explained.”

Thiboutot believes everyone cares about education in Winslow, he said, and the district will continue to have conversations as it makes changes to its plans to ensure residents are comfortable with the final outcome.

Tawni Lively, a parent of a seventh-grader in Winslow, agreed that the school and town need to go “back to the drawing board.” While she voted in favor of the bond, Lively said a performing arts center might not be feasible for the town and that other costs could be cut as well.

“I actually understand why it failed,” she said. “I think there’s just a smarter way to use our tax dollars.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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