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June 24th, 2017

Barre Town Revote on Act 46

Editor,
On January 31, 2017, Barre Town voters will be forced to vote AGAIN on district Act 46 consolidation plans. I encourage all Barre Town voters to get out and VOTE NO on those plans.

In November, Barre Town voted a resounding NO on consolidation. In spite of that, the Act 46 Study Committee decided to force another vote with NO CHANGES to their plan. Barre Town taxpayers will foot the bill for this forced revote, not Barre City voters whose representatives strongly pushed for the revote.

Since then Barre City has revealed that its school budget will increase by three quarters of a million dollars. If consolidation occurs, Barre Town taxpayers will take on that additional funding through increased taxes. And in a combined budget, taxpayers will not know what monies will be spent on Barre Town and what monies on Barre City. Depending on need, it is conceivable that the whole budget of an item could go to one school in any given year, but we as taxpayers will not know that.

Another concern for Barre Town is that all assets and indebtedness will be shared. This means that Barre Town will take on Barre City’s indebtedness and turn over their savings, surpluses, investments and buildings to a pool used by both town and city. On the proposed consolidated mega board, Barre City directors will have direct voting control over former Barre Town assets and depending on the majority, Barre Town can lose control of what they have worked so hard to contribute to their local school.

Act 46 was supposedly designed to promote educational equity and quality schools. Currently Barre Town and Barre City schools meet or exceed state test averages. Yet when the populations are combined at Spaulding High School, test scores fall below state averages and Spaulding ranks in the lower one-third of all high schools in Vermont. Do we want to lose that committed direct, local control that has worked so well in exchange for another consolidated model that for whatever reasons has not.

As to equity, please read the Voices for Vermont’s Children analysis of the inequity in Vermont schools http://www.voicesforvtkids.org/2016/05/. NOTHING proposed in the Act 46 plan addreuity concerns – in fact, consolidation may reduce equity.

Finally, please recognize the scare tactics used in promoting this act. We are warned that we have to approve these plans just as they are or “the STATE” will force their own version of consolidation. It is true that the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are interpreting Act 46 in the most draconian possible ways. However, they are also bound by Act 46 to seek equity and quality in school planning. I may be wrong but I cannot see them seeking to ruin our successful schools in retaliation nor come up with their own plan without considerable study and review.

Through our representatives and state legislative committees, I do believe Barre Town can seek relief from both state agencies in their power grab to determine local school control. Personally, I am sorry for Barre City in their budget dilemmas. However, I believe there are other ways to help with their issues instead of putting the burden on Barre Town taxpayers.

I strongly encourage you to go to the polls on January 31 and VOTE NO on ACT 46.

Dottye Ricks

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