P/sunny
84°
P/sunny
Hi 87° | Lo 64°

CONVAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Some in district want to explore withdrawal

  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Greenfield, joint select board gathering

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Greenfield, joint select board gathering

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Greenfield, joint select board gathering

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Greenfield, joint select board gathering

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Greenfield, joint select board gathering<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

GREENFIELD — Rob Wimpory and his fellow members of the Greenfield Select Board say property taxes are skyrocketing and they want to do something about it. So on Thursday, they invited Select Board members from four neighboring towns to a joint meeting to discuss ideas, including the possibility of withdrawing from the ConVal School District, that might save money.

“We’re felling we’re getting squeezed, and not just from ConVal,” Wimpory said as he opened the session, which drew 12 Select Board members from Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Greenfield and Hancock to the Greenfield Meeting House. “But 70 percent or more of our tax bill is [due to] ConVal. It’s going up and up and up. I’d like to see us agree to start doing something.”

One of Wimpory’s suggestions was to put together a study committee to consider the feasibility of withdrawing from the ConVal School District, at least at the elementary school level.

“Would we be better off to keep elementary kids in our towns locally and tuition to ConVal or elsewhere for the higher grades?” Wimpory asked.

He suggested each town might contribute $3,000 to fund a withdrawal study committee. While none of the other select board members agreed to provide any money, several said research into the possibility of a withdrawal could be worthwhile. But they focused their immediate attention on the current ConVal 2013-2014 budget proposal. The Selectmen’s Advisory Committee to the school district has recommended that the proposed $45.4 million budget be cut by an additional $1 million, and Hancock Select Board member John Jordan, who serves on the SAC, said the group should work to encourage turnout at the school district’s deliberative session on Feb. 6.

“We’ve got to keep pushing,” Jordan said. “[ConVal] has a real problem with the number of administrators. We need to get people to go to the deliberative session. As long as people ignore it, things are not going to change.”

The group agreed to write a letter that will be mailed this week to residents of the five towns encouraging them to attend the deliberative session. Greenfield board member Karen Day agreed to draft the letter and Francestown board member Abigail Arnold noted that the group would have to be careful to avoid taking a political stand in the letter.

Beyond the schools

Wimpory also suggested that the group might look into consolidating police or fire departments as a way to reduce costs.

“Do we really need five chiefs of police? Do we really need five fire chiefs?” he asked. “We’re talking under 10,000 people here.”

He said if police departments were consolidated, each town could be like a precinct in a big-city department.

“Is there a way to get 24 hour coverage in each of our towns?” Wimpory asked.

Antrim Select Board member John Robertson said each of the towns has its own identity, which residents might be reluctant to give up. He said Antrim and Bennington had looked at police consolidation for years, “and we’ve gotten nowhere.”

Jordan noted that the fire departments, which rely on volunteers, are not a major cost for most towns.

“The apparatus is our biggest cost” said Jeff Rose of Bennington.

“Maybe we don’t have to buy a pumper the same year you buy a pumper,” said Jim Cleary of Bennington, who agreed that the idea of sharing equipment might be worth looking into.

Robertson suggested that a good place to start would be to talk to the fire chiefs and police chiefs in each town, to get their feedback on how services could be shared.

Board members all agreed it might be difficult to share highway department equipment such as a grader, because everyone needs to use such equipment at the same time when weather impacts the roads.

And when Wimpory asked if each town needed its own library, they unanimously said “Yes.”

“I don’t want to re-invent the wheel,” Wimpory said, but he added that costs need to be brought down. “People are going to lose their homes,” he said. “Our welfare costs are going to go through the roof.”

After agreeing to draft and mail a letter urging voters to go to the ConVal deliberative session, the group agreed to meet again in Greenfield later this month, after results of the deliberative session are known.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.