Royalton, Bethel and Rochester voters have been unable to agree on a consolidation plan through several votes. Now officials say a clause in their proposal offers new options.
Vermont’s $2.5 million in new child care spending doesn’t ensure that providers are paid market rates, say advocates. That would take a further $9 million.
Big questions remain as school districts look to implement the arrangement worked out by Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers on teachers’ health coverage.
“I am concerned this sets up an increase in taxes next year, but that ship has sailed,” said Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington.
A Cabot-Danville-Twinfield school district unification failed in two of the communities, while Rochester backed out of its earlier endorsement of a combination with Royalton and Bethel.
The deal between Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers requires school boards to either negotiate Scott’s preferred health care plans or dig into their budgets to save money for taxpayers.
“I think we have a strong compromise that everybody will be able to say yes to,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson. The issue was how to find savings on teacher health benefits.
Cabot and Rochester will vote this week on plans that would discontinue their high schools, while Ludlow has already rejected one.
Members of the new alliance are frustrated with the Vermont School Boards Association’s stance on the school district consolidation law, Act 46.
Vermont’s spending on education, health care and the social safety net helped place it third among states in an annual ranking of child well-being.
The board came out against the idea — put forward by some legislators near the end of the session — to force budget cuts if districts didn’t reach a certain outcome in negotiations with teachers.
The ‘yes’ vote sets the stage for mergers in seven school districts in the White River region.
Rochester is already well along in the process of finding a merger partner, but some residents wonder if new options written into the law let them back up and go a different way.
A legislative panel gives school districts more consolidation options.