Bridgewater Voters Face Higher School Costs

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2017 11:45:06 PM
Modified: 2/15/2017 2:23:39 PM

Bridgewater Town Meeting and annual school meeting will be held in the basement of the former Bridgewater Village School on Tuesday, March 7, at 9 a.m. Most voting is from the floor; a measure to consolidate school boards within the Windsor Central Supervisory Union will be voted by Australian ballot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Town Office.

Bridgewater — In what could be the last Town Meeting held at the former Bridgewater Village School before it is demolished, taxpayers will be asked to approve a substantial increase in school costs.

But on the municipal side, plans to tap into rainy day funds may drive down the town tax rate.

At the annual school meeting next month, Bridgewater voters will be asked to approve a school budget of $1.65 million for the 2017-18 school year, of which Bridgewater will be responsible for $728,000. That’s up about 5 percent over Bridgewater’s current share of The Prosper Valley School budget.

Primary drivers of increasing school costs to support the elementary school Bridgewater shares with Pomfret include special education, building maintenance and an increased share of the supervisory union’s budget, due to increasing enrollment from Bridgewater relative to other communities in the Windsor Central Supervisory Union, according to Bridgewater School Board Chairman Seth Shaw.

In addition, the School Board anticipates having a lower surplus remaining at the end of this school year to put toward next year’s expenses.

Shaw said the anticipated cost increases are less than they would have been if Bridgewater had not merged with Pomfret to create the K-6 Prosper Valley School in the fall of 2015.

“We’re very proud of how the school has operated this year and are hopeful for another good year,” Shaw said.

If voters approve the school budget, the local school portion of the tax rate is estimated to be 56 cents per $100 of property value, up from 50 cents for the current year.

That would add about $150 in school taxes to a $250,000 home for homeowners not eligible for Vermont’s income sensitivity program.

On the municipal side, the amount to be raised by taxes is decreasing nearly 10 percent to approximately $703,000 due to surpluses in the general and highway funds of about $44,000 and $34,000, respectively, said Town Treasurer Vicky Young.

“Town is down, school is up,” Young said.

Also on the town warning are eight appropriations totaling $20,700, and a separate article asking voters to approve $15,000 to research and develop engineering plans for a new community building, including a handicap-accessible meeting room, a fire station and headquarters for the rescue squad.

Residents at a Special Town Meeting in November voted 47-37 to demolish the former Bridgewater Village School, which could make the site available for other municipal uses.

If voters approve the $1.2 million municipal budget as proposed, along with the other municipal articles, the town’s portion of the tax rate is estimated to be 39 cents per $100 of property value, down from 44 cents per $100 of value for last year, Young said.

That would equate to a $125 decrease in town taxes on a $250,000 home.

Also on the school warning, in accordance with Vermont’s Act 46 school consolidation law, is a plan to merge the school boards of Bridgewater, Pomfret, Barnard, Killington, Reading, Plymouth and Woodstock into one 18-member board to create the Windsor Central Unified Union School District.

If voters approve the merger in Australian ballot voting, students from Reading Elementary School and Barnard Academy would attend either Prosper Valley or Woodstock Elementary for 5th and 6th grades in 2018.

Voters will choose a School Board member and a Selectboard member in floor votes during the town and school meetings.

On the school side, Joshua Gregg is running to retain his seat and, on the town side, Lynne Bertram is running to retain hers.

Both positions have three-year terms.

There will be an informational hearing on the proposed Act 46 merger at the Bridgewater grange hall on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

Staff Writer Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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