VUHS board confirms Dec. 10 balloting date for $2.88 million

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School board confirmed on Monday a Dec. 10 vote in which it will request backing from Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters for a $2.88 million bond to fund work that would include a basically new kitchen and cafeteria and upgrades to the school auditorium that would return it to full use.
The bond would also include new financing for the $600,000 loan ANwSU voters approved in the spring to pay for new roofing on the school’s classroom wing and auditorium. School officials said doing so would save about $80,000 a year in the next five years by instead stretching loan payments over the bond’s 20-year life at a lower interest rate.
Board members had debated whether to include that $600,000 loan in the bond, but decided to do so at their Oct. 28 meeting when they realized how great the savings would be.
Also in the bond would be funds for sitework, including efforts to prevent water from penetrating the building’s foundation, as is now the case, and new bleachers for the middle school gym.
The board also set Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the VUHS library for an informational meeting. Board chairman Kurt Haigis said on Tuesday board members planned to meet with town officials in each ANwSU community in the next month.
“We’re going to go out and meet with every selectboard that will put us on the agenda,” Haigis said, adding they also hope to sit down with the Vergennes Lions and Rotary clubs and attend “any other community meeting we can find.”
Haigis said on Tuesday the school website — vuhs.org — would also as soon as possible host a video tour illustrating the issues to be addressed, and he also plans to moderate an ongoing question-and-answer forum at the website. He said residents could submit questions, and he would either answer them himself or research issues and provide answers within 24 hours.
According to estimates from ANwSU business manager Kathy Cannon, the first-year tax hike after approval would be about 1.1 cents, followed by an increase of 3.7 cents in the second year that would gradually decrease to 3.5 cents in the fifth year and gradually go down from there.
Those estimates are based on fiscal year 2014 calculations, Cannon said, and would vary somewhat in individual towns based on their Common Levels of Appraisal (CLAs) of property tax values.
A 1.1-cent increase would mean an additional $11 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $27.50 for a $250,000 home, assuming its owners were not eligible for tax relief under Vermont’s school financing systems. Most ANwSU taxpayers received prebates in the most recent year.
The 3.7-cent increase translates to $37 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $111 for a $300,000 home, again assuming its owners are paying taxes on its full value and not receiving a prebate.
Board members at their Oct. 28 meeting said the work proposed simply took care of what facilities committee member Jeffry Glassberg called “deferred maintenance.”
Proposed work to be funded by the $2.88 million bond includes:
•  A complete rebuild of and new equipment for the kitchen and cafeteria, which date back to the school’s 1958 construction. Board members said there would be energy savings in new equipment, especially in a new walk-in cooler that would be placed in a small exterior addition.
•  A new heating and ventilation system and enough rigging, lighting and sound improvements for the auditorium to make it safe and usable for performances, although equipment would have to be rented for musicals, as was the case before it was closed this past August.
The auditorium, closed after failing a safety inspection, would also be painted and thoroughly cleaned; board members said last week it would be more functional for students and comfortable for audiences than in many years.
•  New bleachers and backboards for the middle school gym. Officials said the current bleachers failed inspection and are nailed closed.
•  Repairs to the western sidewalk to fix flooding, new handicap and guest parking spaces, a reconfigured bus pick-up and drop-off area, and work to stop water from infiltrating the school’s foundation.
•  Soffit repairs under eaves where roofing has just been replaced; that work was not done this fall because roofing estimates came in high.
•  The ongoing roofing of the classroom wing and auditorium.
Glassberg, a property developer, said the facilities committee went over all the numbers and estimates to make sure the current estimates are more accurate, and that the December vote would allow for more favorable timing in obtaining bids over the winter.
Board members have consistently emphasized that this bond proposal is step one in a four-phase plan.
Board members also plan to bump up the annual maintenance line item in the budget after discovering VUHS lagged behind comparable schools in that department; establish capital funds and contribute to them annually to reduce future reliance on bonding; and propose a major upgrade bond in 2021, when the current major bond expires that is paying for the 2000 VUHS expansion and upgrade project.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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