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Orwell to join in Fair Haven Union High School budget re-vote next week

ORWELL — Orwell voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 9, to cast ballots on the same 2017-2018 Fair Haven Union High School budget proposal of $7,831,980 that they and other Addison Rutland Supervisory Union residents defeated by a combined 927-763 tally in March.
Fair Haven Union High School serves students in Orwell, Castleton, Benson, Hubbardton, West Haven and Fair Haven.
District voters on Town Meeting Day defeated an FHUHS budget that represented a 3.4-percent reduction ($279,130) in spending compared to this year. But the budget also reflected a 9.75-percent increase in per-pupil spending, caused in large part by a drop in student enrollment and a $718,885 decline in revenues for the high school.
School leaders recently sent district voters an informational flyer about the budget, which will remain unchanged for Tuesday’s revote. The flyer indicates the higher per-pupil spending rate of $14,881 would still be “substantially below the statewide union high school average of $15,380.” The flyer does not provide estimates on the tax impact on adoption of this budget.
Officials also noted FHUHS has averaged spending increases of 1 percent annually during the past 10 years.
The budget, according to the flyer, includes $38,500 for a new phone system that would allow FHUHS to be E911-compliant.
Polls will be open at the Orwell Town Hall between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on May 9.
There will be even busier ballots in other ARSU communities.
Residents served by the Fair Haven town school and the Castleton-Hubbardton Union School District will vote on revised versions of those 2017-2018 spending proposals, which also failed on March 7.
In addition, Fair Haven and Castleton voters will again be asked to support creating a Slate Valley Modified Unified Union School District under Vermont’s Act 46. Addison Rutland Supervisory Union officials need at least four of the district’s six communities to support forming a modified union district that would be governed by a single board presiding over a single budget.
Communities that don’t choose to participate will have to negotiate the future of their governance with the Vermont Agency of Education. If they can’t develop governance plans that meet the consolidation goals of Act 46, the AOE could place them in an already unified school district.
Orwell residents on March 7 voted 219-137 against joining the new Slate Valley district. It was the third time Orwell had defeated the Act 46 referendum, and no one in town filed a petition that would have required Orwell to participate in the May 9 reconsideration vote.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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