Letter to the editor: Mount Abe renovation project should be defeated

Residents of Bristol, New Haven, Lincoln, Starksboro and Monkton will once again be asked to pay for an unneeded expansion of the Mt. Abe school building. This is the school where both enrollments and academic results continue to decline.
The $29.5 million debt figure on the ballot excludes the additional interest expense of 17.5 million dollars — costing you over $47 million — the real cost of this bond.
The tax effect for this bond is more than double what the school says — since almost half of the funds to pay the bond are already improperly built into the budget.
What does that mean to you? If your assessment on your house is $350,000 this will cost you an additional $502.80 on your property tax every year for the next 30 years.
This estimate does not include any increase in other educational or town spending (New Haven education tax going up 4 percent this year before any bond). With the Act 46 funding decrease, we already face a built-in tax increase of 5 percent over the next 4 years. Add to that the existing state educational fund deficit of $80 million plus the general fund deficit of more than $50 million, any carbon tax, additional income taxes, required funding for the lake cleanup, ever increasing per-pupil spending (up over $1,000 per student last year with a declining population) and any other plan created in Montpelier, and you have a “Perfect Storm” of unaffordable taxation.
We can’t afford what we pay now. This bond proposal demands far too much money for things that are unneeded and extravagant. Do we need to spend multiple millions of dollars on architect fees alone?
Instead of adding space, we should pay attention to what is going on inside that building.
From an independent source, Mt. Abe is doing poorly for our kids:
Greatschools.org rates Mount Abe a four (1=worst and 10=best)
Vergennes is a six.
Middlebury earns a nine.
We used to be a five — and the decline in measurable student education continues.
Adding space when student enrollment continues to plummet will not help educate our kids. There will be no improved outcomes from a second gym.
As Mt. Abe already spends 165 percent of the state standard, the additional debt will increase per-pupil spending, further increasing property taxes.
This year’s budget has an increase of $295,533 in salaries — Professional Staff Code 5111 — a 13 percent increase when student count is going down.
Last year, our per-pupil spending increased by 2.69 percent yet our school taxes went up over 18 percent. The educational property tax funding is a broken system, hiring ever more staff and paying them ever more money, and adding $47 million to our tab will cause property taxes to skyrocket even more than estimated above. This bond leads to higher property taxes, which ruins your property value.
The elementary schools that feed students into Mount Abe are experiencing declining enrollments; a trend that will continue. Adding space and frills is not a common sense solution.
If you are a renter, and think this doesn’t apply to you, you are mistaken. Property tax increases invariably are passed along to the tenants by the landlords.
If you think you are protected by income sensitivity, you are also mistaken. The annual cap keeps shrinking, and these levels of spending will put more citizens into the category of paying more in property taxes.
Please consider this: When your family size is shrinking, and the kids have moved out of the house, do you add massive amounts of square footage onto your house? Of course not. Which is why you should vote “no” on the $29.5 million plus $17 million interest = $47 million school bond on Town Meeting Day in our five towns.
Doug Tolles
New Haven

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