The Act 46 process is unrepresentative and moving too fast
Editor of Reformer:
As a resident of Dummerston, I would like to comment on a recent article ("Merger moves on," Aug. 29).
I have attended study committee meetings since the beginning. I am upset about the comments Dummerston's voting member made to the study committee. She said that the Dummerston residents are "stuck on adult issues" rather than thinking of the kids. This is so untrue. Dummerston voters have always thought about the kids. The School Board presents budgets they think meet the needs of the students and that the town can support. Voters have always accepted those budgets because the town does care deeply about the education of it's students. It is because we all care about our kids, that Dummerston is consistently a top elementary school in our supervisory unions as well as in the entire state.
I am also upset that Dummerston's voting member voted to pass these articles when the School Board had voted 3 to 1 against their passage. What kind of representation is this?
David Schoales is correct about the financial figures being presented. They are based on assumptions and questionable predictions. The percentage that each town "might" save is minuscule in the total $54 million dollar combined budget and David is correct that after the supposed "incentives" go away, the tax rates will increase a lot.
At the meeting, the superintendent informed the study committee that he had a conference call with Chris Leopold, their lawyer, Rebecca Holcombe, the Secretary of Education, and Donna Russo Savage, lawyer and principal assistant to the Secretary of Education. They all recommended that we should not vote on all of the issues the same day. The ballot should not include the vote on releasing Vernon from the high school at the same time as the vote whether or not to merge and the vote for candidates running for the nine member "Super Board." They were concerned that all of these votes, particularly on election day, would be too confusing. They suggested that we just vote on releasing Vernon and leave the merging issues to another time, when the public could have much more information than they have today. Also confusing was voting whether or not to merge at the same time we choose our board representatives. The merger vote would be tallied by town. But the vote for the board members would be "at large" and commingled. This means that the votes are sent to one location, tallied and counted. This also means that the voters in all of the districts will be voting for Dummerston's representative. Dummerston would not know how they voted and would not be the ones choosing their representative.
The area town clerks also expressed their concerns with having these votes on the day of the national election. They are concerned about the huge number of ballots they will have to count, probably by hand, in an election that is certain to have a heavy turn out. The people working the polls will be working all day and counting far into the night.
Neither the state, the study committee's lawyer, the town clerks or the public's comments to "slow down" were listened to. This whole Act 46 Study Committee process has been an extremely unhappy and frustrating one. This is a perfect example of what can easily happen if we merge into one district with one "Super Board," especially if we end up having board members who only listen to the administration and pay no attention to different town's wants and needs. The only recourse we have now to keep our local identities, and all we value so much in our individual towns, is to vote no on the merging issue in November. Please attend any upcoming Act 46 forums and ask questions of the people presenting the issues.
Jody Normandeau, Dumerston, Aug. 30