Washington West Supervisory Union’s Act 46 Study Committee members tried to wrap their heads around an assemblage of financial information at their meeting on Wednesday, November 11, at Harwood Union High School.
WWSU’s director of finance and operations, Michelle Baker, presented a summary of building and site values, debts, capital leases and maintenance reserve funds for each of WWSU’s schools.
Harwood school board member and WWSU executive committee member Rosemarie White said that “the board wanted to understand how much each existing school district would potentially contribute to one large school district and how equitable it would be.”
The figures show that Fayston would make the largest contribution, as they have the largest asset to student ratio, but the projected equalized pupil costs are not significantly different among districts.
White explained that “these figures do not take into account any potential debt being considered for capital improvement projects,” including a series of building repairs that Warren Elementary School will complete next year.
Board members asked consultants what will happen when districts of different values are merged together, which will be enforced under Act 46 by 2019. Baker said that this remains an “outstanding question that we’re researching.”
Waterbury-Duxbury board member Alex Thomsen was concerned that money which taxpayers put into their towns could go to any school in the district within the merger. She asked whether schools would be able to freely add services for students, like music and sports programs, and said, “We’d like to think about, not how to survive but how to improve.”
Thomsen pointed out that the merger “might cause quality declines” in education for students.
In a previous meeting, WWSU study committee members decided to proceed with the option for an accelerated merger under Act 46, and WWSU superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease said that the public will vote on the acceleration, which would include major tax incentives, in late May or early June.