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ANwSU residents to vote Tuesday on $2.88 million VUHS building bond

VERGENNES — Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters on Tuesday will decide the fate of a $2.88 million bond request from Vergennes Union High School board to fund work, the major elements of which would be a 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 rolling what was a five-year note with a higher interest rate into a 20-year bond with a lower rate would save about $80,000 a year in the next five years. 
Board members describe most of the items as “deferred maintenance.” The auditorium, kitchen and cafeteria went untouched during the major 2000 renovation and expansion of the school, and they said the maintenance budget was cut during the recent recession years.
The school website — vuhs.org — has two links related to the bond, both of which can be found just under the “School Announcements” banner. One is a video tour illustrating the issues to be addressed, and the other is a blog that includes items like answers to questions about the bond and a copy of a letter the board wrote about the bond to the Independent (see Nov. 25 edition).
According to ANwSU estimates, the first-year tax hike after bond approval would be about 1.1 cents, followed by an increase of 3.7 cents in the second year that would gradually drop to 3.5 cents in the fifth year and further down from there.
Those estimates are based on fiscal year 2014 calculations 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 of taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, or $27.50 for a $250,000 home, assuming its owners were not eligible for tax relief. Most taxpayers in the five ANwSU towns of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham 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, again assuming its owners are paying taxes on its full value and not receiving a prebate.
Details on the proposed work to be funded by the $2.88 million bond include:
•  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 will 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, will 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 end flooding there, 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.
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 project.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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