Letter to the editor: ANWSD spending is too high for taxpayers

An ANWSD Petition from town voters will be presented to the school board on Wednesday evening. The petition is a good consensus of the voters wanting tax relief, from our neighborhoods with multiple incomes. Residents are those who no longer will tolerate the unbearable high tax rates. Some are unable to sell their properties to leave.
Signers want a 25 percent decrease in their taxes leaving it up to the board to choose from what areas the cuts will come. Signers feel this is possible with the consolidation; we were told the consolidation would save money, and reductions are there with reorganization of the budget. Also several vote downs of the budget may occur to obtain the reorganization to lower taxes which voters now will do.
I asked the ANWSD Board chairman, Bill Clark, “What will it take for the board to listen to the public and petition signers wanting tax reductions?” He waved his arm out toward the end of the room with empty chairs for the public to sit in, he indicated he was wanting the room full of people. But, there is no Saturday meeting scheduled for numbers to show up. Do request what meeting will work for you. Attend a meeting and request what will work for your attendance. Attending one meeting is worth your tax reduction.
Our new Gov. Scott wants to see reductions in educational spending. Vermont should be more affordable. Our state has flat revenues, unable to meet a $70 million gap. On Vermont Public Radio, while discussing Gov. Scott’s inauguration, it was stated that 33,000 middle-age persons have left the state this past year, to find necessary jobs with housing that is affordable. Our seniors get a $3 raise in Social Security to see $5 out for Medicare. The funds for taxes are no longer there.
Yes, we must be bold and overcome fear to save our schools before independent schools come in over the next couple of years. Schools will then close for a more cost-effective education. Is it better to cut and downsize now prior to losing them? Or, perhaps it will be more cost effective to go independent. Trump is a businessman who will not go with the currents costs and budgets for education. In addition, his education leader is for independent schools. Times are changing and we need to be ahead of the change to save our schools.
Our school boards need our support. They are elected and work for us. I see the talent on these boards making good changes. They need our input to make the reorganizational changes to bring down the cost per student. Rice Memorial High School has a tuition of $9,630 with 80 percent qualifying for some level of aid in 2016. On the school’s website it says that “tuition does not fully cover the cost of a Rice education,” but the principal told me that the cost per student is around $13,000.
That tuition is a considerable cost savings from our ANwSU voted approval last March of $18,290.68. There is no personal attacks here toward the school board, they need to act in accordance to change and create what is needed for our communities using a business approach coming in to affordability. As a business we know that costs that cannot be afforded would not be approved.
Transparency is said to be there, but when requests are made for documents to support an issue, requests are denied. There are no current inventory lists for school property. This needs to be a priority for accountability of disposed items not to mention the assets in our schools. If a fire occurred, no one would know what was in the building. How do we get a $10,000 grant to replace furniture without being accountable for what was purchased and disposed of. An improvement is needed here.
The superintendent needs to come under control of the board, as she is supposed to work for the board and us the taxpayers. Added expenses in the school budget proposal of $78,000 ($62,000 for a new human resources position: $16,000 for a VUES speech pathologist) is not acceptable. Where is the consolidation of teachers? She is not the hiring agent. Special needs children could be grouped together with less teachers needed.
In the proposed budget, another additional expense for capital improvement is $100,000 this year and up to $200,000 by 2018. The boiler at Vergennes is going to need to be replaced. Heat currently is not at a safe room temperature or adequate for some student rooms.
Being innovative will bring the willingness for change. Then we can create better schools with better education for all students to be college bound. Bright young minds need bright young motivated teachers while saving thousands in costs.
According to the Annual Report 2015-2016 for Vergennes Union High School shows a teacher making $73,234. In the Negotiation document of 2017-2018 it clearly states that teachers are hired for 190 days with additional health care costs paid for, and pension cost. It is beyond one’s imagination for this high and extreme cost for teaching students. Average hard working people of his county do not make this income, in a year, not to mention in 190 days with summers off. Teachers making close to that should retire from our system. This small state and county does not have the economical ability to support the costs. I challenge the teachers to come up with how to save their jobs. “Worth it” buttons will not pay their salaries or save their jobs now the economic status of our state in no longer here.
As 33,000 middle age workers leave the state, and additional persons leaving daily, the economy is not there to support escalating budgets for our schools. There is “no money” to pay the escalated taxes placed on us. Our town and city boards need to promote affordable housing and bring jobs for families to live in the area to support educational costs. A committee of multiple experts to make this happen would be a good move forward in an innovative way to accomplish our needs in this community. Until then, budgets need to come under control with restructuring and drastic reductions before we lose our schools.
Elizabeth Armstrong

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