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Letters to the Editor: Support urged for Mount Abe renovation project

Dear 5 Town Community members of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro,
In November of 2016, the Mt. Abraham School Board tasked a newly formed renovation committee to gather information and present a recommendation to the superintendent, in August 2017, about a possible bond project. This group looked at the work previously prepared by the 2014 Renovation Committee and gathered current information to support their work. The Mt. Abraham Board is grateful to the members of this committee for their commitment and dedication to their work. They worked hard to craft a recommendation that would address critical infrastructure upgrades, and transform the building to better accommodate educational programming happening now and looking ahead to the next 50 years. They also focused on ensuring that the project was fiscally sound. The changes recommended from the committee will transform this 50-year-old building into the kind of facility in which our children will be educated for decades to come.
The board voted in support of this recommendation and was in agreement that improvements were needed and the bond project proposed reflected our commitment to shaping the future of our students and communities. The board gave careful consideration to the cost of the proposed project, as did the superintendent and Renovation Committee. It was very important that the 5 town communities would be getting the most value out of their tax dollars, while making changes that would improve the education of students. We believe the improvements made to Mt. Abraham will empower our students, teachers, parents and community to support the best possible education for the next 50-plus years. This is a common vision we share with the community members, who 50 years ago had the vision of Mt. Abraham.
The 5 Town Communities will be asked to fund $35 million of the renovation cost, with a 30-year bond. We know that is a high price tag. Please consider these facts: Failure to act now, will only postpone the inevitable; we will at some point have to address these desperately needed improvements, at a higher cost: a lesson we learned last fall when the gym floor was ruined by a water leak. Currently, the amount of $1,000,000 is budgeted for Construction Services in the operating budget. We would re-allocate this amount (remove it from the budget line) and replace it with $0 in Construction Services line using it to cover 45 percent of the first proposed bond payment, leaving 55 percent of the payment to be covered through taxpayer funding. Another factor to our advantage is the Act 46 tax savings; taxpayers will have a reduction in their 2019-2022 tax rates. There will be less of an increase for taxpayers who pay reduced property taxes based on income, as well.
Now is our chance to look forward for the next 50 years and do what is necessary to provide for our students and community. The board believes the return on this tremendous investment will continue to benefit and grow our students’ lives and communities’ lives in many ways. It will help improve and strengthen educational opportunities for the students in our community, a long standing tradition in our 5 Towns. I invite you to attend one or more of the public informational meetings scheduled to be an informed voter on Nov. 2. See the ANESU.org website for dates and times. Please join the Mount Abraham Board for their informational meeting Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., in the large cafeteria.
Dawn Griswold
Mt. Abraham Board Chair
On behalf of the board
Monkton

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