1. What is Act 46?
Act 46 is the common name for a piece of education legislation passed by the Vermont legislature in 2015.
2. What does Act 46 require of local school districts and supervisory unions?
With the passage of Act 46 (H 361), supervisory unions and districts are invited to study how they may be more efficient, equitable, and sustainable by consolidating governance and forming fewer school districts statewide.
3. What is the CSSU Act 46 Committee?
The CSSU Act 46 Committee is a voluntary committee whereby each local school board (Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, St. George, and Williston) voted to appoint local representatives proportionally.
By law, Act 46 committees are tasked to study the various consolidation options available under the Act. The CSSU Act 46 Committee has been charged with the following:
- Exploring the benefits and challenges of forming a unified school district among the five towns that currently comprise the Chittenden South Supervisory Union,
- Engaging the community at large in this study to determine whether formation of a single district should be presented to the voters for approval, and
- Completing a written report for submission to the Vermont State Board of Education
This twelve-member committee includes representation from all CSSU member communities.
4. What is our current CSSU structure?
Chittenden South currently operates as a supervisory union comprised of five neighboring towns: Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, St. George, and Williston. Each town functions as an independent school district. Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, and Williston each operate PreK-8 school systems. CVU District is also a member and provides grades 9-12 for the community. St. George is the exception. St. George is currently under contract with Williston to send its students K-8 to Williston Schools, and grades 9-12 students have school choice although most elect to attend CVU.
5. What does consolidation mean under Act 46?
Consolidation as advised by the Legislature through Act 46 involves merging all of the Districts in the Supervisory Union into a single Supervisory District. The significant differences would be governance by a single board of directors, replacing the current seven board structure; A single budget that includes all proposed expenditures and revenues and results in the same school tax rate for every town, only varying by the influence of the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA).
School consolidation does not mean it is required for school districts to close schools.
6. What would a consolidated school board look like and how would it be formed?
This is one of the issues being studied by CSSU's Act 46 Study Committee. The options include, but are not limited to: a board with proportional representation based on population similar to the CVU board now; a fully at-large board, where a board of a certain size is elected from a ballot regardless of town designation (though a candidate has to be a resident of the new school district); or a mix of town representation and at-large representation. It is likely the study committee will recommend representation elected by each town in proportion to population.
7. What would be the impact on education tax rates?
Consolidation would have an effect on the education tax rate in two specific ways:
First, the school districts of CSSU would move from individual education tax rates to ONE blended tax rate, adjusted locally for Common Level of Appraisal.
Second, if there is a decision to consolidate by June 30, 2016, education tax rates would be adjusted for a credit of 10 cents the first year of a shared budget, starting July 1, 2017. In subsequent years, tax rates would be adjusted down .08 the second year, .06 in year three, .04 in year four, and .02 for year five.
8. How would the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) adjustment be handled in a single district model?
The Common Level of Appraisal, or CLA, is an adjustment made by the state on a town by town basis to the education tax rate to account for the differences in property appraisals. Under Act 46 legislation, each town continues to have its unique CLA.
9. Would there be any other changes to my tax rate?
Property tax rates in support of schools are influenced by several factors:
local school spending and student count
statewide school spending and student count
local property assessments versus market values
These factors would continue to affect the tax rate whether or not school districts consolidate.
10. How would fund balances be handled?
In the event of a vote in favor of consolidation by June 30, 2016, all assets including existing fund balances would become part of a consolidated district once a consolidated district is fully operational. The transition to a fully consolidated district would take a year, and commence July 1, 2017.
11. What are some potential cost efficiencies of a single district?
While work continues on this topic, an initial review of potential operating efficiencies concludes that a savings of approximately $1.5M could be realized over five years. Areas identified for achieving savings could come from financial and clerical administration, auditing, food service, board costs, facilities management, contract management, and sharing of resources. Additionally, local school leaders working together on a single budget could result in more opportunities for sharing of best practices, which could lead to greater savings.
12. Would combining multiple districts into a single district create another layer of bureaucracy and raise costs?
Chittenden South Supervisory Union boards have been successful over the last decade in reducing costs by centralizing shared services for better coordination across all districts. Examples of this are in financial services, human resources, IT support, and transportation. To build on efficiencies gained by sharing resources, further centralization of some services would likely result with a single district, which, in turn, would likely help direct resources that support classroom teachers in their work with kids. An example of how this works can be seen in professional development activities that support all teachers across all buildings.
13. How would decisions about facilities be addressed? (e.g., maintenance, renovations/construction, fields)
Just as today, the responsibility for school facilities belongs to the school board. Under a consolidated system, decisions on facilities maintenance, renovations, and construction would belong to a consolidated school board.
Local input would be required to identify needs and assist the board in prioritizing requirements across the system. However, for issues going to bond, all voters in a unified district would vote on bond articles. For improving efficiencies related to facilities maintenance and improvements, it is anticipated that a consolidated board would present a single general capital improvement bond to the public on Town Meeting Day to fund required projects across all of the towns.
14. How would local innovation and local fundraising be handled?
Two of the guiding principles of Act 46 legislation are ensuring student equity and acknowledging the value of local initiatives and culture. Within a consolidated framework, there would be room for local fundraising activities similar to what currently occurs and which is consistent with existing policy. Similarly, educational practices would allow for innovations based on local need could be coordinated centrally.
15. Where can I find more information?
Vermont Agency of Education site
Vermont School Board Association site