The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board will meet again this week, only this time over the internet. The board will meet via Zoom on Wednesday, April 8, starting at 6 p.m. “It will be a remote meeting with full public access,” board chair Caitlin Hollister told The Valley Reporter.
Here are a few items expected to appear on the board packet: a board leadership report, a suggested motion toward appointing a new Waterbury representative and a report on the bond work to date.
Hollister expects that some items on the meeting agenda will be moved aside, however, to make room for two priority items: remote meeting logistics and the school budget. “The board has to work on logistical elements of the new format and really focus on the budget,” said Hollister.
In consultation with Will Senning of the Vermont secretary of state's office, Hollister recommends that the board approve a budget at their meeting on April 29 and warn it for a public vote on June 2. “The guidance from the SOS office encourages us to postpone public votes beyond April and May. They also recommend using as much of the 40-day window as possible between board approval and public voting in order to allow time for early voting by mail,” said Hollister in an email to the board.
By law, the board has a minimum of seven days and a maximum of 40 days between deciding on a budget and holding a public vote. If the board agrees with the advice from the secretary of state, it will extend the voting window as much as possible in order to give the public enough time to receive and return a mail-in ballot on the school budget.
Voters in the six towns in the district rejected the board’s proposed budget of $39.7 million on Town Meeting Day, March 3, by a vote of 3,048 to 2,254. There was significant voter pushback throughout the district about the fact that the budget called for merging all middle-schoolers at Crossett Brook Middle School this fall along with moving Moretown fifth- and sixth-graders there. The board has to present a new budget to voters and have a budget in place by June 30.
At its meeting on March 12, the board voted to vet three budget options, none of which were contingent on middle school consolidation. Those budgets options are (1) the same budget as last year, (2) a budget with $300,000 of savings that will not add staff to accommodate more students transferring to Crossett Brook through intradistrict choice, or (3) a budget with $300,000 of savings that will continue the current intradistrict choice policy.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board had been working on plans to bring a bond vote for upgrades to Harwood Union in June. This week’s meeting will shed more light on the board’s thinking around the bond issue. Amounts for the bond have ranged between $20 million to $39 million.
(Idea: Insert Link at bottom of this story): Read our story “Expect the vote via mail-in ballot on the next school budget” to learn more.