Voters to decide on $60M bond for Harwood Unified Union School District
MORETOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - Residents in six Vermont towns on Tuesday are voting on a bond for the Harwood Unified Union School District worth nearly $60 million.
If the bond passes, the money will go to infrastructure improvements at Harwood Union High School, which hasn’t been substantially renovated since it was built in 1965.
“I have to say I felt conflicted in trying to make what I thought was the right choice,” said Steve Sharp of Moretown.
Voters in Moretown, one of the six towns in the district, are casting their ballots after putting much thought into what this bond could mean for them.
“I think it’s a waste of resources but also. more importantly, I think it’s not going to make the education actually better,” said Randy George of Moretown.
Some of the voters I spoke with had some mixed feelings about what this vote entails.
“I fully support increased school funding and having the best schools available for our kids,” said Andrew Pappone of Moretown. “There are a couple issues in this vote that concern me.”
Issues like a potential 8% increase in education property taxes to pay for the bond for residents making over $47,000 a year.
“The fact that this bond is going to make my taxes rise that much more is going to really put me in a struggling position,” said Sarah Auger of Moretown.
Waitsfield Town Clerk Jennifer Peterson, who is in favor of the bond passing, says she thinks it will be a toss-up.
“I’m feeling both. I’m feeling it’s hard to tell how it’s going to go,” Peterson said.
Jeswin Antony, a junior at Harwood Union High School, can’t vote but he says he’s seen the school’s infrastructure problems firsthand.
“You can definitely see the signs of the aging building, like in the wintertime the roof leaks and there’s buckets in the hallways and when I’m in my science classes we can’t do some experiments because the existing structures don’t support it,” Antony said.
Harwood School Board Chair Torrey Smith says this plan has been in the works since 2015.
“It’s not like the building starts repairing itself,” Smith said. “So what’s happened is the high school and its needs kept getting pushed off and pushed off and pushed off.”
Smith says the board is done waiting to see if the state will unpause construction aid, which was put on hold in 2007, and the time for this bond to pass is now.
Sen. Andrew Perchlik, D/P-Washington County, is on the education committee. He says Harwood’s aging campus isn’t unique in Vermont, an issue the Legislature is working to highlight.
“Overall there seems to be consensus that Vermont school facilities need help, that there’s been a lot of deferred maintenance throughout the whole system,” Perchlik said.
The polls close at 7 p.m. and Smith tells me they will have the ballots counted shortly after.
The bond also includes adding an addition to Crossett Brook Middle School to accommodate seventh- and eighth-graders.
According to a Facebook post by the Harwood Unified Union School District, bringing together the seventh- and eighth-graders would be cost-effective.
We’re told most households would see an 8% increase in education property taxes, but not for homeowners who earn less than $47,000 a year.
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