The Readers Write

Vote no on SCS bond

Thank you School Director Robert Finn for being so forthright and honest about why you voted “No” on the $11,200,000 bond vote at the October School Board Meeting. It is very troubling to learn that other members of the Shelburne School Board and the Facilities Committee felt it would be inadvisable to present a less costly bond option to the Shelburne voters. Shelburne voters have a history of supporting quality education without asking the difficult questions as to why. The School Board is banking on our generosity to get this bond passed. Now is the time to voice our opinions and ask the hard questions as to why such a costly bond is needed.

I agree that there is deferred maintenance that needs to be completed on the building including replacing the roof, installing new windows, and updating the HVAC system which comes to a cost of about $2,000,000. I don’t think anyone who has been in the school can question the need. However, I am concerned about the additional amount of $9,000,000 that is being requested. Clearly, there must be less costly options to address student distraction and student safety other than completely gutting the D and E wings.

To promote and market this bond, color brochures funded with tax payer dollars have been printed for distribution. Why is money slated for educating our students being used for such expenses? If this project stood on its own, a brochure would not be needed.

I would fully support a $2,000,000 bond vote, but given today’s economy, an $11,000,000 bond vote cannot be justified. I encourage everyone to vote “No” on this bond. A “No” vote, will send a message to the School Board that we want a new, more affordable option that addresses the deferred maintenance on the roof, windows, HVAC system, and student safety without a huge additional and unnecessary burden on Shelburne residents. This will give the Shelburne School Board and the Facilities Committee time to present a more realistic capital plan and bond proposal for the November election.

Please vote “No” to give Shelburne tax payers a reasonable bond option.

Jan Gannon, Shelburne

Why I will vote for the school bond issue

On Tuesday, March 3, I will vote for the school bond. Here’s why:

  1. Parts of our school building are really old. The two wings most needing renovation date from the original school building of 1967, in desperate need of upgrades. This bond reflects a true need, not a want.
  2. This is a fiscally responsible Bond; there is no extra (“fluff”) money being asked for. I have been a Budget Buddy for years, attending all the public budget work sessions. Our School Board and Administration have worked really, really hard to pare every possible expenditure from the 2015/2016 budget.  I know that the same knife has been applied to the bond, which represents the most cost-effective solutions to our school building’s issues. This bond reflects only the repairs and renovations that absolutely must be done.
  3. Shelburne, as a community, prides itself on the quality of our children’s education. We have a great school here. We need to support this bond in order to maintain the high quality of education that we expect.

Our School Board has been extremely fiscally prudent for many years, allowing Shelburne to experience very low tax increases. But old buildings need repair; delaying any longer the work that needs to be done will create larger problems in our future.

Want to learn more about the bond vote? Come to an information session in the Shelburne Community School (SCS) cafeteria on Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 7pm. Or check out the brochure at the SCS website (www.scsvt.org, “Facilities Committee” Quick Link).

Please join me in voting YES on the bond vote. Help preserve our great school!

Alice Brown, Shelburne

Vote yes on SCS bond

I am writing to say why I am voting for Article VI on the Shelburne Ballot March 3, the $11.2 million bond to repair our school. I am not only voting yes as a school board member, I am voting yes as a parent. I am voting yes as a parent whose children sit below a roof that is 3-5 years past its projected life. I am also voting yes because there are parts of this school which have not been addressed since they were built in 1967.

There are fire alarms and sprinkler systems that do not meet current codes. There is a roof that does not meet current ratings for snow loads. There are old single pane windows sucking heat and energy out of the building in winter. There are accessibility issues that do not meet current ADA requirements. There are open classrooms that present two challenges. One, in order to not disrupt classes, students must pass through an outside breezeway, outside of the school locks, on cold days, up to a point. When the weather is too cold, children pass through those hallways and disrupt the kindergartens, Holden House, French, and Spanish classes. Second, none of the classrooms in these wings have a lockable door to secure the space in the event that this is needed.

Is $11.2 million too much to ask? It is a sizable amount of money over 20 years. However, by spreading this bond out over 20 years, it represents a 5.6 percent increase in the budget based on current terms, and is a modest compromise of what could be done and what has to be done. The list of things to fix in the school could top $38 million, and a new school could approach $50 million. The $11.2 million number is a balance of how to plan for the future of Shelburne’s children with improvements in the facility, safety, and security.

I hope you will vote yes on Article VI on Town Meeting Day.

David Connery, Shelburne

Support the SCS bond vote

I am writing as a community member of the Shelburne Community School (SCS) Facilities Committee, where I spent the better part of the last year studying maintenance and education needs at the school. Having poured through engineering reports and learned about the connection between facilities and educational outcomes, I strongly encourage you to support the March 3 $11.2 million bond vote, to provide critical maintenance needs to SCS.

The Facilities Committee had contracted with an engineering firm, Dore and Whittier, to identify a range of options to address school facility needs. The firm came back with five options, ranging in price from $17.6 million to $29.2 million. The facilities committee felt that we needed to pare back even the most basic option, to ensure that we were only covering critical facility improvements, which is how we “went back to the drawing board” to come up with the $11.2 million option being presented to voters.

A few facts about our school:

  • We are 149 out of 266 school districts in per pupil spending (FY2014-VT Dept. of Education).
  • Out of 64 K-8 schools in the state, SCS has the second highest student-teacher ratio (second most crowded classrooms), and eighth-highest student-administrator ratio (FY2014-VT Dept. of Education).
  • Many SCS classrooms are overcrowded relative to national education recommendations – the project is directly designed to make better use of the existing building footprint to address this.
  • Shelburne students recently scored below their CSSU peers in Hinesburg and Charlotte in statewide science tests, both schools with newer, better science facilities. Again the project is designed to help eliminate this gap.
  • Spending on public education in Vermont as a percentage of the state’s GDP, is unchanged for the last 20 years, at 5.5 percent (VPR 12/2/14). Property tax increases outpacing inflation have come predominantly from an increased reliance on the property tax to fund education.

The point is, the school board has done an excellent job ensuring that we are “getting our money’s worth” from our taxes. Shelburne has the 3rd highest per capita income in the state (U.S. Census). This is something we can afford, and our community will benefit from. Excellent schools translate directly into enhanced property values, and at this juncture SCS absolutely needs the investments on the table.

I respect School Committee member Robert Finn’s opinions included in his Jan. 29 letter, and appreciate all that he has done for the community, but with all due respect, he did not sit on the Facilities Committee and may have had less direct insight into the process. I’ll note that the two School Committee members who did sit on the Committee both voted strongly in favor.

Again, I encourage you to come out and vote to support SCS on March 3.

Matt Wormser, Shelburne