Kingdom East Bond Vote for Facilities Renovations and Improvements Rejected by Voters
For Immediate Release
DATE: June 19, 2019
CONTACT: Jennifer Botzojorns
Lyndonville, VT –
On May 14, 2019 the Kingdom East Board of School Directors approved a not-to exceed twenty-four million dollar bond to be put before the electorate on Wednesday June 19 to support major renovation and improvements to school facilities in Burke, Concord and Lunenburg.
The citizens of the towns of Burke, Concord, Lunenburg, Lyndon, Newark, Sheffield, Sutton and Wheelock defeated the measure by a vote of 313 YES to 789 NO. Kingdom East School District votes are commingled and not reported by town.
In addition to the bond vote, the town of Lunenburg considered a measure to return the Gilman School to the town of Lunenburg contingent upon the passing of the bond vote. This measure was defeated by a vote of 73 YES to 127 NO .
During the informational meetings, citizens expressed concerns about specific projects, the overall cost, taxpayer affordability, and recommended alternatives. The transition from individual school districts to one unified Kingdom East School District budget was a concern. In the past school construction costs were paid for by the local town. District school funding today is comprised of roughly 26% local residential property taxes, 41% non-residential property taxes, 20% state general funds, and 13% general purpose taxes. The 2018 – 2019 Kingdom East School District budget was $33,998,997 for all seven schools within the district. In the first full year of operation as the Kingdom East School District, tax rates decreased from the prior year in all eight towns.
Our District is not unique in our facilities challenges and needs. This week on Vermont Public Radio the Vermont Secretary of Education was interviewed concerning school facilities. Board members, parents, citizens and even students have sent over 200 letters
to legislators this winter asking for construction aid. At a legislative breakfast in St Johnsbury, questions regarding construction aid was asked of the local delegation. Legislators have shared that districts need to consider this issue at a local level.
The cost and estimated increases in the tax rates are real for everyone. Safe, quality facilities cost money, and folks express concern about the cost. The Board understands these real concerns and looks forward to further conversations about how the Kingdom East School District can best serve all of our children in our towns at a cost that taxpayers can support.
Kingdom East Board Chair, Cynthia Stuart stated, “The Kingdom East Board has worked together for three years, and together we have forged a common support for all our children and schools. The Board sees our schools as one community, not small separate entities, and we are committed to providing safe and quality facilities for our students. With community input and collaboration, the board will now reassess our options before moving forward.”
The facilities committee and entire Kingdom East School Board is committed to ensuring safe, equitable and healthy learning environments in all of the schools. On Tuesday June 25th at 5 pm, the facilities committee of the Kingdom East Board will review the information collected, including the minutes and input from the informational meetings. The full Kingdom East School Board will discuss next steps at their meeting on July 16th in Lunenburg.
Kingdom East School District became effective on July 1, 2018 merging seven schools and eight communities including Burke, Concord, Lunenburg, Lyndon, Newark, Sutton, Sheffield, and Wheelock. The Kingdom East School District serves approximately 1,813 students, 330 employees, and oversees $46.5 million in facilities located in seven communities.