Fayston citizens will gather the signatures necessary to require the select board to include an article on the Town Meeting warning that calls for withholding education tax payments to Montpelier.
At the board’s December 28 meeting, town resident Freddie Graves asked the board to consider adding such an article to the warning, noting that first Act 60 and 68 and last year’s Act 46 which calls for consolidating school boards and possibly schools, have led to a steady loss of local control.
“Act 46 is really an attempt to close all small schools. There will be no efficiencies or saving of money or improved student outcomes. It’s going to cost more money and we’ll have even less control,” she said.
Select board members questioned whether Graves was suggesting withholding payments to the Washington West Supervisory Union and Fayston Elementary School. She said no, taxes could still be collected, but payments to Montpelier would be withheld.
“I’m talking about the $1,955,000 that goes from Fayston to Montpelier. Other towns are beginning to have this discussion as well,” Graves said.
“Would you be prepared to lead a discussion? If something like this was presented, someone would need to do so,” board member Ed Read said.
SEE SOME WORDING
“Heidi has asked me to host a series of informal discussions on this topic,” Graves said, referring to Fayston Elementary School board chair Heidi Spear.
“If you guys are interested or willing to put it on the warning, we won’t have to do a petition, “Graves said.
“We’d have to see some wording,” Read said.
Graves noted further that it is the hope of organizers that many other communities who make significant contributions to the cost of statewide education will participate. She said her understanding is that Stowe’s contribution is in excess of $20 million and Killington’s is more than $10 million.
“If we can get 10 towns to do this, that will get their attention in Montpelier,” Graves added.
Asked what is the longterm goal, Graves said, “To change how we pay for education and maintain local control. We have a controversial superintendent and the pool of superintendents statewide is very weak. It’s scary to hand control over to people like that and getting it back after you give it away is difficult to get it back.”
“With Act 46, each school has a different issue with it. The Legislature rushed some of these things through without looking at the implications,” she added.
Because of timing -- the board’s next meeting is January 11 and petitions are due January 15 – the board urged her to gather the signatures for a petition as a precaution and to get her proposed wording to them as soon as possible.
Reached after the meeting, Graves said that there was also a lot of research being done locally and statewide on what it would take to change a public school to an independent school.
“No matter how much we cut, taxes go up because we don’t have control of the budgets. Every step we take in a path towards consolidation does not save money and it removes control. The only recourse I can see is if people don’t send their money to Montpelier. If enough towns put this in their Town Meeting warnings it might get media attention and maybe the legislators will pay attention,” she added.
Graves said her group is still researching what legal ramifications will occur if towns collect property taxes intended for Montpelier and then don’t remit the funds. She said her colleagues in Stowe are of the opinion that the town clerk or treasurer would go to jail and said towns could also vote not to collect the statewide education tax to reduce their liability.