Public invited to discuss ANwSU unification
VERGENNES — The Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee is inviting residents of the five union towns to an Oct. 28 forum to learn more and ask questions about potential ANwSU unification under Vermont’s new education law, Act 46.
Act 46 created more incentives than were available when ANwSU previously considered unification, and also for the first time created penalties for those that do not do so in a timely manner.
The forum on this coming Wednesday will run from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Vergennes Union High School library.
In order to meet Act 46’s incentive timetable, ANwSU must submit a unification plan to state officials by the end of the year for approval. If the plan wins state backing, ANwSU officials can then schedule a vote on Town Meeting Day that if successful could lead to a transition that would begin next summer.
According to ANwSU officials, the Wednesday forum will include a presentation by the committee and a chance for residents to ask questions and offer their feedback.
Focuses of the presentation will include, according to officials:
• The equity and quality of students’ education.
• The union’s efficient operations and long-term financial sustainability.
• ANwSU transparency and accountability.
Unification incentives that are possible under Act 46 include the following, but are only fully available if district voters back a state-approved new structure before July 1, 2016:
• Decreases of 10 cents on the education property tax rate during the first year of the governance merger, followed by 8 cents in year two, 6 cents in year three, 4 cents in year four, and finally, 2 cents in year five.
• A “transition facilitation grant” of $150,000.
• Retention of Small Schools Grants, which will instead be known as the “merger support grant.” A supervisory union that doesn’t embrace Act 46 will lose its small school grants.
The committee that is studying the question includes:
• From Addison, school board members George Lawrence and Eugene Stearns (with Michele Kelly backing up Stearns) and community member Todd Garthaffner.
• From Ferrisburgh, school board members George Gardner, Laurie Gutowski and Chris Kayhart, and community members Kristina MacKulin, David Tatlock and Tracy Newton.
• From Vergennes Union Elementary School, including Vergennes, Panton and Waltham, board members Cheryl Brinkman, Jason Fearon and Steve Flint, and community members Bill Benton, Barbara FitzPatrick and Mimi Clark.
Retired Vermont School Board Association President Steve Dale will help lead the process, which will include at least one more public forum.