Since a vote to quickly consolidate school boards and budgets passed on June 7, the newly consolidated district – named the Harwood Unified Union School District – will begin operating on July 1, 2017.
Town clerks will certify the vote on July 7 and wait for certification acceptance from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) within 15 days. Within 60 days of this acceptance, the unified board will hold their first meeting.
This board will be composed of 14 members who represent Valley schools. Schools of Waitsfield, Fayston, Warren, Moretown and Duxbury will have two representatives on the board. Waterbury will have four. The numbers are based on population.
At a June 21 Fayston Elementary School (FES) board meeting, Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease said that the unified board will hold its first public meeting in late August. They have submitted three meeting dates to the AOE and are waiting for confirmation. Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont’s secretary of education, will attend this meeting as part of the certification process.
From there, the group will meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, just as the Act 46 study committee has done for the past year.
Waitsfield representative Christine Sullivan said that the current individual school boards will stay in existence until no later than December 31, 2017. Many boards may have fewer meetings but will continue to operate through the next school year in order to oversee the FY 2017 budget. Boards cannot dissolve until the 2017 audits have been completed.
Scheffert Nease and a majority of WWSU school board members have echoed what the state has put forth – that the law will create financial savings and more educational opportunities in Vermont schools.
Taxpayers were told that they will receive tax reductions in the next five years, as a reward for consolidating quickly. These are 10 cents off of every dollar of property value in the first year, 8 cents in the second, and so on, each year reduced by 2 cents.
Warren School Board member and state Representative Adam Greshin said that residents will most likely see the 10 cent reduction in the first year, but due to likely increases in education spending thereafter, the tax relief will not be visible.
Greshin said, “We throw money at education, and it’s spent.”