On March 13, 2024

Killington clarifies study on feasibility of leaving MSVU

By Curt Peterson

Last week, Killington voters approved Article 5 authorizing a study into the ways the town might leave the Mountain View Supervisory Union and either join “a Rutland SU” or become a total “choice town.”

At Monday’s very short Select Board meeting, March 11, Debbie LeBlond asked Town Manager Michael Ramsey to clarify that there were be no cost to the study, because it seemed to contradict what he had written in the Q&A published in the Mountain Times, which said “consultants will be hired.”

Haff assured Ms. LeBlond that there will be no cost associated with the study. Ramsay acknowledged he might have given the wrong impression his answer published the week prior.

The proposed “exit study” is inspired by opposition to a $99 million bond required for a new middle/high school complex at the Woodstock campus and the high rate of education taxes in the MVSU district. The current middle/high school building was ranked second worst in the state by the state a few years ago.

Killington voters rejected the MVSU FY2025 budget by the greatest margin of any town in the district and assumably rejected the bond by at least that margin, likely greater.

Haff’s description of the Article 5 study at Monday night’s meeting provided more information than his motion to add the Article in February (approved without comment by the other two selectmen) but is still basically an outline.

At Monday’s meeting he said “we will ask Rutland to come to Killington and give a presentation, including budget information, facility description and academics.”

The Mountain Times asked selectman Chris Karr to which “Rutland” district the board is referring. “Nothing has been determined,” Karr said. “The ballot question was to do a feasibility study into the process.”

Ramsay will be researching if and how Killington can get out of the district in the first place, then tax implications of a possible merger with Rutland or school choice.

Per state law (Act 176) in addition to all district towns voting separately for Killington to leave the district, the state also needs to approve the move as beneficial for the district and the state. On page 67 of the law it reads: “If the state board finds that the withdrawal proposal… is in the best interest of the state, the region, the students, and the school districts and aligns with the policy set forth … the state shall approve … or disapprove of the proposal.” Then on page 69, it reads: “If a majority of the voters in one or more towns within the union district do not vote in favor of withdrawal, then the proposed withdrawal shall not occur.”

Every district wants more students, a benefit in the state education funding scheme.

Choice towns use “tuition” dollars to send students to any school of their choosing — in state, out of state, public or private. If Killington could be come a “choice” town, it would pay the state-set tuition to the accepting institution.

Some sources say the state would never approve making Killington a choice town as it runs counter to improving state education costs that are incentivized through consolidation.

“From the beginning I thought [Jim Haff’s] proposal was just grandstanding,” Vito Rasenas told the Mountain Times. “I don’t think it will go anywhere, but it should be a shock to the [New Build] committee.”

Haff has said the same himself: “If nothing else it should be a wake up call to the district. It’s too expensive. We can’t keep this up. We’re looking to alternatives that may better meet our citizens’ needs.”

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