VUHS to host information meeting on repair proposal

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School board will host an informational meeting on Monday on its proposal for a five-year, $600,000 loan to put a new roof on the school’s leaky classroom wing and auditorium. Monday’s forum will begin at 6 p.m. in the VUHS library.
Residents of the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns will be asked in a district-wide May 14 vote to support the proposal, which follows defeats in both November and February of multi-million-dollar bond issues that would have also funded major renovations to VUHS, notably to the auditorium, kitchen and cafeteria.
In Vergennes, balloting will coincide with a vote on a $1.45 million bond to build a new North Main Street police station (see related story).
If voters back the $600,000 loan, payments would add about $10 of taxes per $100,000 of assessed home value, according to an estimate offered on Tuesday by ANwSU business manager Kathy Cannon. Those who pay based on their income, not on the full value of their homes, and thus are eligible for prebates would not pay the full amount of that increase.
That estimate is before any adjustments for towns’ common levels of appraisals (CLAs), but the CLAs in ANwSU towns will not move the number much, she said. Most residents in ANwSU towns do not pay taxes based on the full values of their homes and would not feel the full effect of the tax increase.
When they adopted the $600,000 proposal in mid-April, VUHS board members said they would probably this fall put forward another bond proposal.
That bond — possibly in the $2 million range — would probably at least fund an upgrade to the school’s aging kitchen and cafeteria, which feature equipment dating back to the school’s construction more than 50 years ago; replacement of its auditorium’s failing heating and ventilation system; and site improvements they also called critical, including stopping water infiltration.
That bond plan would also include more favorable long-term funding for the roofing work to replace the short-term funding called for by in the May 14 plan.
VUHS board members said the roofing, which is leaking badly and thus causing more damage to other building elements, was the most crucial of the work that needs to be done.
In choosing the $600,000 loan option for a May vote, the said they did not want to risk another bond defeat, and thus a potential delay in the roofing project.
In November, a $6.5 million proposal with major auditorium upgrades, an artificial turf field and a six-lane track lost soundly on Election Day. A split bond proposal, one for $4.2 million for almost all the work inside and around the school and one for $2 million for the field and track, then lost in early February. The vote on the $4.2 million of work was close; the athletic improvements were defeated in a one-sided tally.
VUHS board members may well also be willing next week to discuss their plans to take better care of the facility in the future. They have outlined a “four-point” plan the board plans to follow to improve maintenance there:
•  Bonding to meet the most pressing needs.
•  Devoting more money in the budget to maintenance. Board members said comparable schools spend more. 
•  Creating a capital improvement fund that voters will consider separately on Town Meeting Days. That fund, as has been the case for the three ANwSU elementary schools, would be used to help pay for long-term building needs and reduce reliance on bonding.  
•  Waiting until the 2000 bond that expanded and renovated the school is paid off in 2020 to make major future upgrades.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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