Letter: Vote 'no' on Nov. 7
Residents of Brattleboro, Guilford, Putney and Dummerston should be on the alert. There is a vote coming up on Nov. 7 concerning merging all of our schools under the supervision of a nine member board and the administration. All of the present school districts will lose their locally elected school boards, the opportunity to present and discuss their separate budgets at local town meetings, control over teachers and where they teach, and most of all ownership of their school buildings and grounds that they have worked so hard to build and maintain. The buildings and grounds will belong to and be controlled by the super district, if this merger passes, not the individual towns. The above are only a few things local towns will lose.
Brattleboro, your taxes will go up. Right now Brattleboro has the lowest education homestead tax rate at $1.5976 per $100 assessed value. Brattleboro's municipal tax rate is by far the highest of the other communities. If the merger passes, your education homestead tax rate would most likely go up, as Brattleboro would then be partly responsible for their share of any of the outlying towns' debt, any deferred maintenance, and any additional programs to create "equity" in all towns.
For Guilford, Putney and Dummerston, the most important issue is your school could be closed without a vote of the town. This is according to the Articles of Agreement that the Study Committee has drawn up over the objections of members of the outlying towns. It has already been said several times that Brattleboro could absorb all of Guilford's students without adding any teachers. Some other things you would lose include you would no longer own your school and property; you would not have a local school board; you would not have a local budget to be discussed and voted on at Town Meeting; you would not have the ability to hire your own teachers and make your own decisions; and you would only have one voting member on the nine member super board. Brattleboro's votes would control everything. Please keep in mind what happened with the Windham Solid Waste District.
You also would not have control of your students and where they would go. Putney and Dummerston, be particularly aware, as your middle school students could be moved to the Brattleboro Area Middle School without any say of the community.
While this all sounds horrible to a lot of residents, it is not the only option, even though the members of the Study Committee will tell you it is. An Alternative Governance Structure is actually an accepted structure in the Act 46 Law, and is described as "A Supervisory Union composed of multiple member districts, each with its separate school board." Our supervisory union could meet the Goals of Act 46 with some tweaking.
Everyone feels the goals of Act 46 are admirable. Our supervisory union already meets a lot of them. This is exactly what some groups on the area are working on. Brattleboro and Dummerston have both formed AGS committees and have been working together on enhancing our SU. Members from Vernon, Putney and Guilford have joined in the conversation. There also is a very large group of citizens, from all of the towns, that has been meeting for over a year discussing alternatives to merging.
This Alternative Governance Structure can only be addressed if the merger vote fails. I ask that you give our present structure a chance to comply with Act 46's goals. A structure that has worked so well for over 50 years. Please vote "no" on Nov. 7 and let us work together to achieve the best education for our children, and the best for our local schools and communities.
Dummerston, Oct. 6
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