What would a yes vote on a Harwood bond mean? What would a no vote mean? Why bring a bond vote this November rather than next March at Town Meeting?
These are some of the questions that members of the Harwood Unified Union School District bond community engagement subcommittee are grappling with as the board works toward bringing a bond vote to the community this fall.
The bond is needed for repairs and updates to Harwood Union and potentially expand Crossett Brook Middle School to accommodate all district middle schoolers at that school. There is not a set price for the bond other than an estimate of $50 million and there is no updated scope of work for the project either. Pre-pandemic, the board had been working on the scope, scale and price of the bond but hadn’t set a date to bring it to voters.
The board has set an ambitious schedule to work on the bond, including dedicating three board meetings in August and September to package up the bond work and approve a warning. The warning needs to be approved by September 15 in order to hold a November 2 vote.
School board members Jonathon Young, Warren; Torrey Smith, Duxbury; Christine Sullivan, Waitsfield; Caitlin Hollister, Waterbury; Jeremy Tretiak, Waitsfield; and Tim Jones, Fayston, met on June 29 to discuss how to engage with the community in the district’s six towns around the issue of the bond.
In addition to the hypothetical questions posed above, the board members also identified themes such as the global cost of the bond as well as the impacts of the bond on individual taxpayers and whether any bond vote should wait until testing has determined whether or not there are dangerous levels of PCBs at the school. Many Vermont schools built in the 1960s are now being tested for PCBs after dangerous levels were found in the South Burlington High School.
According to the minutes of the subcommittee’s June 29 meeting the group is wondering whether they should be seeking feedback from the committee or just providing information. Specifically, board members note:
--They have been engaging within the board and the community about the need for the bond and what they have been considering for about five years now.
--In terms of the next couple months and the final push to November 2, the goal of the community engagement is to get information out so that the community feels ready to vote.
--The board wants to engage around the actual ideas on the table as opposed to going back and revisiting previous conversations.
The subcommittee meets again on August 3 to finalize its community outreach plan which the full board could approve at its August 24 meeting.