ORWELL — Orwell may see some lively discussion at its town meeting, which will be held Tuesday, March 7, at 10 a.m. in the Orwell Town Hall.
Residents will decide in a vote by Australian ballot whether or not to unify the Orwell’s school governance with five other Addison Rutland Supervisory Union towns that, if approved, would comprise the Slate Valley Unified Union School District. An 18-member board, made up of three representatives from each of the six towns, would preside over a single K-12 budget.
Orwell residents have rejected the merger twice last year, on April 12 and June 21, but the five other towns of Benson, Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton and West Haven voted to unify.
If Orwell votes against unification on March 7, it will supervise its own middle and elementary school population until it negotiates a separate plan with the state to join a unified district.
A 14-member study panel has prepared the most recent unification plan, which was approved by the Vermont Agency of Education last month. Supporters hope it will make unification more attractive to Orwell voters.
The new plan, among other things, has made closing an elementary school more difficult, and has granted equal representation for each of the six towns, so that each will have three representatives each on the new board.
All the SVUUSD board candidates seeking election on March 7 are running at large, meaning voters in all six unifying towns can vote in all of the races. In Orwell, Peter Stone is running unopposed for a one-year term; Glen Cousineau is running unopposed for a two-year term, and Andrea Ochs and David Carpenter are both running for the three-year term, of which there is only one spot.
Also on the March 7 ballot, Orwell’s current school board is looking to approve a $1,933,177 spending plan for 2017-2018 — a 7.58 percent increase from last year’s $1,942,025. The new budget would represent $13,785 of spending per equalized student.
Voters will decide whether to pass this year’s proposed town spending plan of $1,042,684, which represents a 6.5 percent increase from last year’s $978,950. Separately, Orwell First Response is seeking authorization from voters for a new vehicle that will not exceed the cost of $165,000.
The town of Orwell is looking to acquire the land on which the town office and town green sit, and which the school currently owns. Orwell is requesting to make the transfer for $1.
Orwell residents will vote on several contested races for town office this year. Selectman Bob Fields, who was re-elected to a two-year term last year, died in a car crash in December. Thomas Audet and Daniel Redondo are running for his spot on the board, and Andrea Ochs and Amy L. Roy both are vying for a three-year Fair Haven Union High School Director position.  

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