School bond issue comes up again in several communities

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(Host) Residents in Goshen, Brandon, Leicester, Sudbury, Whiting and Pittsford will decide tomorrow whether or not to approve nearly $10.5 million in school bonds.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports – it’s the second time in four months the issue has come before voters.

(Keck) Rob Naylor, of Sudbury, is on the school board at Otter Valley Union High School. He’s also in the construction business and he says the school – which houses 720 kids – needs a lot of work.

(Naylor) “This is a 45-year-old school and when you look across the country what happens to a lot of 45-year-old schools is that they’re torn down. The good news is 45 years ago we constructed a well built school and it’s been well maintained. So this is something that can take us decades to come but we just have to take care of it and this is a maintenance issue that needs to be done.”

(Keck) School board members have broken the bond issue into two separate articles – hoping that will give portions of the project a better chance of passing. That first article asks voters to approve a bond of $8.2 million dollars to make repairs to the schools’ roof, heating and air systems, water and sewer treatment, as well as electrical systems. Naylor says classrooms, bathrooms, hallways and administrative space would also be renovated.

Otter Valley Union High School Principal Dana Cole Levesque says a separate article asks voters to allocate $2.3 million to fund a new gymnasium for the middle school. While that project has been seen by some voters to be frivolous, he says the need is real.

(Levesque) “We have a gym, but there’s a tremendous demand placed on that gym from November straight through March. We have kids coming here at 6 in the morning and here until 9 or 10 at night practicing.”

(Keck) School board members say they’re not sure how voters will respond, especially since voters defeated a similar measure last November by a 60 to 40 margin. Rob Naylor says voters need to understand that repairs to the school’s infrastructure need to be done regardless.

<(Naylor) "We'll have to do a lot of this stuff and we'll have to do it out of the annual budget which means the budget will go up anyhow. But the big difference is we won't be receiving 30% state aid if we do it out of the annual budget. It will also be more expensive because it will have to be done piecemeal. So when you can't wrap something into a big project it becomes more expensive for obvious reasons."

(Keck) If approved, he says 30% of the project will be funded by the state. But if residents vote no, he says recent efforts in the legislature may make it much harder to get state funding for any future projects.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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