Burlington voters to consider $165M school bond measure

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 4:44 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - With just under a week until election day, Burlington school officials are encouraging voters to sign off on a $165 million bond measure to replace the Burlington High School.

BHS was shut down in 2020 over concerns about PCB contamination, sparking a statewide conversation and new laws last year to take a comprehensive look at the toxic chemical in all of Vermont’s aging schools. BHS students last year began attending school in the old Macy’s department store until a new school is ready.

“I think it’s an important enough need for the community not just for people who have kids, not just for the kids themselves, but for the future of our community as a whole,” said Whitney Parsons of Burlington.

“I can’t imagine living in a community that doesn’t want to support education by building what is absolutely necessary -- which in this case is a high school,” said Ellen Sklar of Burlington.

Burlington School Board Chair Clare Wool says they are committed to exploring every avenue possible to raise funds to offset the $165 million price tag, whether it be state or federal funding, or settlement money from future PCB lawsuits. “We believe there’s federal money as well to help Burlingtonians. We need to make sure that people can afford to live in Burlington. This bond vote should not be a “no” vote against our high school. Our one and only high school in a college town needs to succeed, needs to be built, and needs your vote,” she said.

The bond will raise taxes for the average homeowner in the city by $800 a year. It’s this cost that has spurred opposition to the measure, with opponents putting up signs around the city. “I think it’s an affordability problem. Though Burlington needs a high school, we have to have something that’s affordable. We have to build a high school that taxpayers can afford to maintain and build, quite honestly, and right now is a tough time for everybody,” said David Kirk of Burlington.

Several other people who we spoke to Wednesday declined to go on camera, saying they would be voting “no,” citing both the sticker shock and how they felt the city could be building a cheaper school.

But the majority of voters we spoke to Wednesday said they are in favor of the school bond, despite the tax implications. “I know it’s a burden on some taxpayers but I think it’s extremely important that they don’t go to school in a shopping mall,” said Sue Sullivan of Burlington.

“I think it is so important for the children and adolescents in Burlington to have a safe space to learn and it is important also for teachers to have the facilities they need in order to provide a good education,” said Helen Bohn of Burlington.

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