This article by Greg Sukiennik originally appeared Feb. 9 in the Manchester Journal.
WINHALL — For years, this town in the Green Mountains has been known not only as the gateway to Stratton Mountain, but as a community with a significant educational perk: Full school choice, from kindergarten to senior year of high school. But that selling point has led to an expensive drawback.
Last fall, 29 new students showed up in Winhall — far more than the 10 new students the Winhall School Board had anticipated for the 2017-18 school year. Suddenly, the town faced a staggering education tax hike of 50 cents per $100 in assessed value.
The Winhall School Board has developed an alternative solution, which it will present to voters at town meeting next month.
It reduces the tax increase to 27 cents per $100 by paying the state average tuition to Burr and Burton Academy next year, instead of the higher sending-town tuition rate. But that means Winhall will lose its sending town status with BBA, and it means Winhall BBA parents will need to pay nearly $3,000 per student to cover the gap.
“Nobody likes this position,” School Board Chairwoman Christie MacKenzie said. “Ultimately, the townspeople have to decide what they have to do. This is not our decision — everybody has a voice in this. It’s important that everybody knows this.”
With school choice costs spiraling, the board is asking voters to consider authorizing future votes on school choice as Australian ballot, rather than from the town meeting floor. That procedural step could point in the direction of joining the Tacoinc & Green Regional School District —a move that would likely reduce education property taxes, but also eliminate school choice for elementary and middle school.
All eyes will be on Winhall’s town meeting, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6, at The Mountain School, and there are concerns that the debate could get heated. Independent schools serving Winhall are making plans to mobilize parent support, and an informational meeting on that effort is planned for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at The Mountain School.
Read full story at the Manchester Journal.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)