What's next for South Burlington after failed school bond?

Published: Mar. 5, 2020 at 12:24 AM EST
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One night after South Burlington voters struck down a $209 million bond to build a new middle and high school, school board members got to hear why they didn’t support it.

A handful of the 6,500 voters who rejected the bond told the board they had no other choice. Several people said this isn’t just an affordability issue but a survivability issue as well.

“I have seen people literally in tears and starting to look into the future as to what are they going to do when they lose their home,” said one woman.

The tax burden was one issue. Another was the lack of transparency that voters say they felt from the school board. People said they didn’t see the hard numbers until January.

“I think you have to be more honest. You’re putting people in harm’s way,” one voter said.

Board members argued they offered several meetings to inform the community but few people showed up.

“Even though we advertised them, even though we sent out emails practically begging people to come, it’s been very hard to get the level of engagement that we’ve had until there was an actual vote about it,” said School Board Clerk Bridget Burkhardt.

Board Chair Elizabeth Fitzgerald says the board gave an estimate as early as possible but couldn’t give the specifics at that time due to a number of variables in the education funding formula.

“It’s an effort on the board’s behalf to give a close enough ballpark that the taxpayers get something that’s representative of their tax bill but has all the caveats of recognizing there are elements of the funding formula that we don’t control,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says the board is still considering building a new school and will work to engage the public more to come up with a project that works for everyone.

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