Brattleboro Union High School board to review the year at annual meeting

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BRATTLEBORO — The annual meeting for the high school district is still on, despite the budget not coming up for a vote.

"There's a lot up in the air," said Ricky Davidson, chairman of the Brattleboro Union High School board, "but we have to have an annual meeting by statute."

Davidson said Act 46, the 2015 education law that prompted the State Board of Education to order districts in his supervisory union to merge by July 1 pending any changes from the Vermont Legislature or litigation, does not allow for certain things but others must be done by law.

The budget — spanning the high school, middle school and career center — will not be presented at this year's annual meeting happening at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the BUHS gym. The spending plan has been approved by the school board and will be presented to a transitional board that will then make a recommendation to an elected board if the merger goes through as ordered.

Other Windham Southeast districts — not including Dummerston, which is a party in one of the three lawsuits challenging mergers — are planning to do likewise. Dummerston is set to have residents vote on the budget at annual Town Meeting Day in March.

Several housekeeping items still will be considered at this year's annual BUHS meeting.

"Basically we're going to be reviewing this year because that's what we have to do during our annual meeting," Davidson said.

Articles ask the voters of the district to act on reports of school officers, set salaries for officers and directors, and transact any other business that may legally come up at the meeting. Ballot items include the election of moderator, clerk, treasurer and auditor all for one year "or until the district is dissolved, whichever comes first."

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Voters from Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney can participate. Those four school districts plus the BUHS district have been ordered to merge.

"I think we'll end up talking about Act 46 a lot," said Davidson, who's hopeful that the board will have the latest update on legal challenges to discuss at the meeting.

Davidson said he can appreciate the Legislature looking at offering extensions for districts involved in ordered mergers but felt that unless something else is modified within the law, it wouldn't change much.

"This was, in my opinion, a poorly conceived law in the beginning," he said. "And there was a lot of unneeded consequences people didn't take into consideration."

No major changes are proposed in the budget, Davidson said.

"In a lot of ways, we feel the three schools are running really well and we're doing good education for our kids at a cost we can handle," he said. "Hopefully, it makes it easier for the transitional board and the merged board if that comes into being."

The recommended $25.2 million budget features a 2.6 percent increase over last year.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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