Act 46, Vermont’s legislation that calls for the consolidation of school districts throughout the state, is like a hand grenade tossed into our communities that we don’t know whether it is live or a dud.
We’re being asked to voluntarily come up with articles of incorporation to merge our elementary school boards into one union district, similar to the way that our many towns have one union school district for Harwood Union.
This consolidation is mandatory, but we can voluntarily do it early if we want to receive property tax breaks. So we have to simultaneously work to craft articles of incorporation that respect what each of our member towns hold important while simply hoping that it will work.
The Act 46 Study Committee is discovering that fact, as are the individual school boards. The act of trying to balance local priorities while creating a district set of priorities is an enormous task – and one that nobody can know whether or not it will work or even how it will work.
That’s the live or dud hand-grenade portion of it, along with the fact that there is absolutely no clear indication that this forced/voluntary consolidation will lead to long-term tax savings.
To be sure, there are very specific property tax savings in the first three years that are significant for some Valley towns and less so for others. But what happens after that?
What will happen if/when Warren bonds for funds to either repair or build a new school? The board’s request for proposals has gone out, seeking bids for either extensive repairs or a completely new building.
With a consolidated district, we’ll all be paying for repair or to build a new Warren school and we’ll all be paying for repairs at each elementary school. That’s another hand grenade that could pit town against town and lead to one faction of the community seeking to close another’s school to avoid such costs.
This does not seem like a recipe for successfully (and affordably) educating our kids.