I want to express my dismay at the outcome of the Franklin Central Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee’s vote on Monday night. After attending a public forum about the proposed merger and following the coverage of their work, many of us were left with the impression that there was consensus and that some merger proposal would be brought to the voters of Saint Albans (Town and City) and Fairfield for Town Meeting Day in March.
The opportunity seemed too good to pass up. More students in the district would mean tax rate stabilization in all of the towns. A combined governance under one board would offer opportunities to share resources and save money. On top of that the state incentives for an early merger would amount to about $200/yr in property tax savings for a typical Saint Albans homeowner each year for 5 years. Increased educational opportunities for a lot of students AND lower taxes? Sign me up!
The process that resulted the end of the committee’s work seems very strange to me. When I was in the legislature there was a golden rule about committee work: It’s okay to vote no, but don’t surprise the Chair with a no vote. That principle didn’t seem to be followed on Monday, leaving committee members and more importantly the voters scratching their heads.
The end result is that the voters and tax-payers of Fairfield and Saint Albans won’t get a chance to voice their opinion about a merger this Town Meeting Day. They won’t get a chance to take full advantage of the Act 46 tax breaks or the opportunities that the students would have to share programming, curriculum, facilities and more. That should disappoint all of us.
There may be another bite at the apple, though. I hope that the members of the committee who voted no hear from lots of their neighbors and will reconvene to bring a merger plan to the voters in a special election this summer. If you want to join me in contacting the Act 46 Study Committee members, their contact information is available at fcsuvt.org.