Wheelock/Sheffield taxpayers and Miller's Run School

To the Editor:

As many of you are aware, the Unified District # 37 School's informational meeting regarding the revised Fiscal '14 Budget will be held on April 23 at Miller's Run School in Sheffield, and the Wheelock and Sheffield Town vote (by Australian ballot) will occur the following day, April 24.

While it is most commendable that the School Board & CNSU have come up with a $104K reduction from their previously proposed budget, this token amount is just NOT adequate and my husband and I will likely vote NO on April 24th's ballot.

Furthermore, because there is no physical possibility of withdrawing from the UD#37 for Fiscal 2014, I would propose that, unless the new budget presented by the Miller's Run/UD#37 school board is revised downward from the previously proposed to at least $ 3,215 K (equal to fiscal '13 ), and teaching jobs are actually reduced, we must push towards the dissolution of UD # 37.

While we acknowledge that overall State education spending for fiscal '14 is projected to increase by 5.4%, we MUST remember that the NEK is the poorest area in Vermont and in order to give some relief to its taxpayers, the school commission should be mindful that you can't squeeze blood from a stone and they should endeavor to maintain the 2013 level, at least. While we also realize that 80% of school budgets represent teachers salaries and benefits, due to the ever-continuing student numbers' decline, staff numbers should ALSO be declining. Why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for poor school board administration, rewarding excessively high numbers of teachers and staff with ever increasing salaries? Perhaps it's time, taking President Obama's example along with members of Vermont's Congress, and in SOLIDARITY with Seniors everywhere who face Social Security cuts, for the CNSU teachers to also take a 5% pay cut.

I find the so-called "equalized" calculation often quoted by various school boards to justify their expenses is a cosmetic (or fabricated) calculation which does not represent the actuality, in other words, if there are 211 (125+ 86 high school) students currently in the two towns and total budget is $3,433K, it comes out to $16,271. per student, regardless of the creative accounting to "equalize" payments. And I firmly believe we could get better value for our taxpayer dollars with the eventual consolidation of Miller's Run with another school (logically, Lyndon Town School, being the closest, although perhaps one of the private schools such as Thaddeus Stevens might be a better choice for the children) as the PK-8 should not be costing us as much as sending high school kids to Lyndon Institute ($14,713.) or St. J. Academy ($14,570.). A committee should be formed to study our options, as I've previously suggested. Moreover, a properly worded (vetted by a lawyer) petition (pre-lined,with room for printed name, address & signature) as Wheelock selectmen have voted in favor of on April 9, should be drawn up for each of Wheelock AND Sheffield towns to disband the UD #37 by 2015. We should be mindful that Sheffield MUST approve the schism also.

As previously mentioned, both Wheelock and Sheffield residents should consider the option of converting the school (on which we have a bond remaining to payback for the next 9 years) into a joint Civic center, allowing for various community services and recreational activities.

In conclusion, to paraphrase Voltaire "The comfort of the CNSU depends on an abundant supply of the poor." We, the taxpayers, should all strive to make this otherwise.

Helene Millas

Wheelock, Vt.

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