Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Public Information Forums! Ask Questions!

page updated 2/15/ 2017

Click here to read the full 34-page Report & Articles of Agreement prepared by the Act 46 Leland & Gray Towns Study Committee

Schedule of Public Information Forums for Voters in Jamaica, Brookline, Newfane, Townshend and Windham.
 - for videos of past meetings, scroll down

You are not limited to attending the meeting in your town only - come to any of the meetings and ask as many questions as you would like. This is an important issue and you can make an informed vote!

Did you miss an important Public Information Meeting? Watch it here.

SLIDE PRESENTATIONThis is a PDF file (<400kb) which is shown on a screen during the Public Information Meetings.

A letter to Voters in Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham from the Committee Members. The information below was scheduled to be mailed to the voters directly in February, 2017.  (click here to print this letter or view as a pdf.file - no sign up or password required.)

February 15, 2017

Dear Community Members,
This is the follow up from our first three community forums.  Below are the questions that have been asked at the meetings and their answers.  If you have questions that are not answered here please come to the Public Information meetings on Feb. 20th in Windham and March 1st at L&G.

Q: How will transportation work?
A: Transportation planning is one of the first responsibilities of the new board.  We cannot say what it will look like at this point.
Q: Do taxes change after 4 years?
A: We know we have the incentives for the first four years.  After the first 4 years we don’t know.
Q: Is there one board for all that schools K-12?
A: Yes.  The current board remain until July 1, 2019.  After that the new unified board would take over with the current district boards remaining in existence until they wrap up their affairs.
Q: Will schools be closed?
A: Article 14 requires a vote of the town to close a school.  A school can close but it will not happen without the consent of the town involved.
Q: What is the composition of the board?
A: Representation is based on population: Newfane - 3, Brookline - 1, Townshend - 2, Jamaica - 2, Windham - 1 and 2 at large members elected from the entire district once it is formed.
Q: What if there is no petition filed to be on the ballot for the new board?
A: There can be a write in candidate.  If no one is elected the town board can appoint a member to the new board.
Q: How does consolidation affect hosting Pre-K?
A: The new board will determine how Pre-K will be offered district wide. 
Q: How will this be changed by any new legislation during the current sessions in Montpellier?
A: As of right now only deadlines for compliance are proposed to be changed.
Q: What happens if there is a "no" vote?
A: The Towns can ask the state to stay in the structure we have, but it is unlikely they will let us. It is most likely they will want us to go with the plan we've created as they have already approved it.
Q: In the new structure, will there be an Annual School Meeting on Town Meeting Day?
A: No. There will be a separate annual meeting for the district, much like the system L&G uses now.
Q: Where would the "center of the Universe" be for this district?
A: That will be decided by what is most practical for the new Board.
Q: When will the school choice within the district first be available and what will the process be?
A: The new Board will have to come up with a system for it, but the earliest it might be available is September 2019.
Q: Does the district have enough students to meet the State's size requirements?
A: Yes, because we would be forming a “side by side” with the new River Valley Unified School District – comprised of Dover, Marlboro and Wardsboro.
Q: What does representation look like on the new board if a town opts out of the consolidation?
A: Representation stays the same as shown in the report as the opted out town still sits on the board for matters related to L&G. (See Article 17.)  An opt out town however will not vote on the at-large members starting March 2018.  The opt out may become moot if the State Board of Education, in their statewide plan, moves towns in union high school districts into a unified system.
Q: If the WRED forms does the LGUMHS cease to exist as a legal entity?
A: Yes, as well as all the town school districts voting to join the unified district.
Q: How is this possible as the towns that vote to form it should need to vote to dissolve it?
A: The articles call for the dissolving of districts if the unified district is formed. A yes vote forms the unified district and dissolves the existing district simultaneously. The articles specify the start date for the unified district and the ending date for the town boards of the member districts. (See Article 13.)
Q: Will the WRED have a new or different annual meeting date?
A: The unified district board can set meeting dates as it desires.  Decisions by the voters of the entire unified district are needed to change the voting process (to or from Australian ballot) to something different than specified in the articles. 
You can also watch the videos of the forums we have held at Consolidation now, by our own design, is our best choice.  Remember to vote March 7, 2017.  Polls open 9am -7pm.

Thank you, The Act 46 Study Committee

Complete archive of the Study Committee’s work  --

If you have questions or comments please contact a study committee member listed below.
Joe Winrich Townshend                                                Patti Dickson, Jamaica
Brud Sanderson, Townshend                             Carolyn Partridge, Windham
Drew Hazelton, Jamaica                                                Emily Long, Newfane
Erin Zargo, Brookline                                       Heidi Russ, Townshend
Ian Doak, Newfane                                           Kelli Warriner, Newfane
Ken McFadden, Newfane                                  Kris Jerz, Townshend
Neil Pelsue, Newfane                                        Pam Tweedy, Jamaica
Sherry Greene, Brookline

Public information forums will be held as follows:
Windham February 20, 2017, 6:00 at the Windham Elementary School
Final meeting March 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm at Leland & Gray

A letter to Voters in Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham from the Committee Members. The information below was mailed to the voters directly in January, 2017.

Dear Community Members,

On December 20th, the Leland & Gray Towns Act 46 Study Committee’s consolidation report and proposed Articles of Agreement were approved by the Vermont State Board of Education (BOE). The approval allows the Study Committee to bring our proposal to the voters in our five towns for a vote on March 7th. Our previous informational letters, as well as the proposed Articles of Agreement, can be found on the website for your review.

On March 7th, Town Meeting Day, you will get a ballot with the two articles asking whether to consolidate the Newfane, Brookline, Townshend, Jamaica, Windham and Leland & Gray Union Districts into a single unified district and, if consolidated, who will serve as Directors representing your town on the new district board.

Voting “Yes” on the consolidation question means:
• We will have one single board with representation based on population: Newfane - 3, Brookline - 1, Townshend - 2, Jamaica - 2, Windham - 1 and 2 at large members elected from the entire district once it is formed.
• Day to day operation of our schools will not change. They will continue to provide a high quality education for our students.
• Students will continue going to their town’s elementary school, and then to Leland & Gray.
• All of our children will be eligible to participate in the elementary school choice program and the existing, statewide, 9-12 public high school choice program.
• All five schools will have a school-based advisory committee that will provide feedback to the new, larger board on issues and concerns that are important to their school and town. The membership of these committees is expected to include parents, townspeople, the principal, a member of the board from that town, and any others concerned with the operation of the school.
• There will be a single homestead tax rate that reflects the costs of educating all of the pre-k through 12 grade students in our five towns, including Leland & Gray. These tax rates will differ the first few years because the legislature limited both increases and decreases to 5% annually from your current 15/16 tax rate. Town tax rates will still be adjusted by your town’s CLA.
• Consolidation will minimize fluctuating tax rates that result from year-to-year changes in a town’s student population. The new district will have approximately 628 students; a change of 10-15 students will have a much smaller effect on the larger district than on our current smaller districts.
• The new district will have $211,436 in small school grants that Townshend, Jamaica and Windham currently receive continued as merger grants. Additionally, we will receive $150,000 to help with the organizational costs of the new district and we will receive decreasing annual tax breaks for four years starting with 8 cents.

A “No” vote means:
• The proposed unified District will not replace the five district system currently in place.  It will not mean that consolidation goes away. Act 46 mandates consolidation by 2018 or the State BOE has the authority to consolidate us with whichever district they choose in 2019.
• A “no” vote may mean giving up our choice on how we consolidate.
• With the Articles of Agreement that will be voted upon on Town Meeting Day, there are significant protections for each of our schools and towns against an unwanted school closure. This will most likely not be the case if we are joined to another district by the State BOE.
We think consolidation now, by our own design, is our best choice. Our next letter will include answers to questions that are asked at the community forums that have been scheduled for January and February. Please come to one or more ask your questions and we will answer them.

Thank you, 
The Act 46 Study Committee
If you have questions or comments please get in touch with a study committee member listed below.
Joe Winrich Townshend                                               Patti Dickson, Jamaica
Brud Sanderson, Townshend                                      Carolyn Partridge, Windham
Drew Hazelton, Jamaica                                              Emily Long, Newfane
Erin Zargo, Brookline                                                    Heidi Russ, Townshend
Ian Doak, Newfane                                                       Kelli Warriner, Newfane
Ken McFadden, Newfane                                            Kris Jerz, Townshend
Neil Pelsue, Newfane                                                   Pam Tweedy, Jamaica
Sherry Greene, Brookline