On Nov. 5, St. Johnsbury voters will weigh a $3 million bond vote. We urge voters to reject it.
Here are the reasons why.
1) The $3 million request by the St. Johnsbury School comes immediately on the heels of a dramatic 16 percent budget increase, passed by only 11 percent of voters. The one-two punch exceeds our community’s capacity to pay.
2) The board lumped four major projects together in a single budget vote. That means you have no choice but to accept them all if you support only one or two. Instead they should come back with four separate bond votes to test the meddle of each project.
3) As a standalone item, the $800,000 ask for new school security measures is a waste of money. Their proposal is to beef up security at one of about a dozen entrances. That’s foolish and ineffective. As the folks at National School Safety & Security Services point out, “A brief sample of basic school security measures include cost-free and lower cost measures such as, but not limited to, reducing the number of open doors, having functional communications systems, keeping trees and shrubs trimmed to promote natural visibility, and establishing procedures for accurately and timely reporting of school crimes.” If the board could say, with a straight face, this money will protect the children, then we’d support it. They can’t say that.
4) The $750,000 ask for a wood boiler and wood pellet building comes at a time of significant uncertainty for the regional wood chip manufacturing industry. Not to mention natural gas would be cheaper. The school may very well need a new boiler but we aren’t confident in the board’s energy market analysis. Not only that, we’ve heard no discussion about the complexity of managing wood chips in winter. There’s an aspect of operating expense to be factored that has garnered no consideration.
5) The timing of the multi-million dollar ask comes during an effective state moratorium on construction aid. That means there’s no other funding or incentive to help defray expenses, so the tax liability is at its highest. Basically they’re asking for a huge chunk of dough at precisely the wrong time.
The school board’s most time honored play is to stack the booth with local teachers and school staff. We hope you’ll get out and join us in rejecting their bond.