Mount Abe board looks to draft new bond proposal

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School board, at their meeting Tuesday evening, performed an autopsy on the lopsided defeat of a $32.6 million bond proposal to renovate the aging Bristol school.
The board came to a consensus on the primary reason the bond failed: taxpayers were unwilling to foot the bill.
Residents of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union’s five sending towns on Nov. 4 voted down the proposal, 3,328 to 1,239.
Board member Bonita Bedard said the $32.6 million proposal reflected the wants of the community, but just cost too much.
“The community spoke over and over again about what they wanted. They wanted what was in the plan,” Bedard said. “They want a gym, natural light … and an updated, safe school. The issue very clearly was the money.”
Bedard added that the board must do a better job of informing the public about a future proposal, and encourage residents to come and tour the school to see the need for themselves.
“A lot of people weren’t aware enough to come to the meetings,” Bedard said.
The board estimated that for the first year of the 20-year bond, education taxes on a home valued at $200,000 would increase by between $274 and $398, depending on the town. Superintendent David Adams said the vote indicated that residents can’t stomach those tax increases.
“The sentiment was expressed that largely this has to do with the financial impact, the burden on the property tax,” he said.
In an interview the day after the bond failure, board vice chair Shawna Sherwin said she hoped the board could put a new proposal in front of voters on Town Meeting Day in March. On Tuesday evening she conceded that may not be a realistic expectation, as the board would have to warn that vote in mid-January, leaving little time to draft a new plan and educate voters about it.
Board member Amanda Bolduc asked Sherwin if the school has looked at all possible grants to help offset the cost of renovation.
“From what we understand, there just isn’t anything available,” Sherwin said.
The school board discussion came on the heels of a Nov. 10 meeting of the facilities committee, which the board set up to draft the original bond proposal.
That meeting, attended by 25 people, focused on evaluating the reasons the bond vote failed and finding a renovation — and a dollar figure — that voters would find palatable.
Board member Carol Eldridge said Tuesday evening that the facilities committee has done good work to date, and should be expanded to include more people.
“We’ve got wonderful people in the community with great ideas who need to be heard,” she said.
Eldridge added that in the next renovation proposal, the board should break down the individual costs of big-ticket items, such as renovating the pool, moving the library and building a middle school gym.
“I’m hoping the board can break down what the price is for these things, to see what (residents) can afford,” she said.
Adams said that because the bond vote failed and thus any future renovation would be delayed, the board may need to allocate funds for improvements that are needed within the coming year. He also said the board may need to set aside more funds to hire a firm to develop a new construction plan.
The board did not discuss what sum — though surely less than $32.6 million — might earn support from voters. Sherwin told the Independent on Wednesday that rather than start with a dollar figure and work backward, the board is trying to evaluate the needs of the school and then examine costs.

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: