Our legal appeal of the State Board of Education’s forced merger ruling has been resolved and requires that we move forward with the merger process. While we did not believe a merger was necessary, there is no doubt that our children will continue to receive the highest quality education, and we look forward to finding efficiencies and opportunities in the newly merged governance structure.
We are actively working to prepare for operations of the new, merged, Lamoille South Unified Union School District (LSUUSD). The LSUUSD Board has developed a merged budget for approval by the electorate of all three towns. Approval of this merged budget is critical as it allows us to operate our schools beginning July 1, 2019.
The merged budget of slightly over $31 million reflects the programming and priorities approved by voters on Town Meeting Day.
The budget reflects support for the continuation of current levels of staffing in all areas, with the exception of a proposed 1.0 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) reduction in professional staff at PAML and a 1.0 professional position at MES where we have seen decreased enrollment. There is an increase of 0.20 FTE for Art at SES (increasing from 0.8 FTE to a 1.0 FTE position) and an additional 1.0 FTE at SHS to support the implementation of an internship program (currently under development through Roger Murphy’s Rowland fellowship). The athletic director position at SMHS is increased to 1.0 FTE (from 0.75 FTE). The budget also provides $45,000 for professional services for substance abuse prevention and mental health for students at SES and SMHS.
The proposed FY20 budget results in local homestead tax rates of $1.514 for Elmore, $1.445 for Morristown and $1.538 for Stowe. Compared to the FY20 individual district budgets, this is an increase of 2.4 cents for Elmore, an increase of 2.2 cents for Morristown and a decrease of 2.7 cents for Stowe. Differences in each town’s CLA account for the differences in local homestead tax rates.
We are still planning to pursue capital projects using designated Capital Project Funds. Proposed projects for FY20 include replacement of the fire alarm system at PA/PAML, bathroom renovations at PAML, window replacement at the Graded Building, boiler room improvements and replacement of windows in the cafeteria at SES, and replacement of the fire alarm system, refurbishment of building siding, replacement of outside bleachers, replacement of the kitchen cooler and chimney repairs at SMHS. Funds transferred from EMUU and Stowe must be used for their designated purposes, thus the remaining capital funds will be used for projects in Elmore-Morristown and Stowe respectively.
While we have learned, worked and played together for generations and have a long history of mutual respect, governing our educational system together is new. Over the coming months and years, we will be working to bring our combined strengths together to create a better educational system for all. Your voice in this process is critical. Please engage in this process by voting on the newly merged budget.
The annual meeting of the new merged district, along with a public information meeting on the proposed budget, will be held on Thursday, May 23, at 6:00 p.m. at the Stowe High School Auditorium. A budget vote by Australian ballot will be held on Tuesday, May 28, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Elmore, Morristown and Stowe Town Offices.