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Vt., Mass. Merger Committee Begins Planning Next Steps

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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STAMFORD, Vt. — With two successful votes in hand, the Interstate Merger Committee's next step is to hire a consultant to work with educational agencies and lawmakers to shape a school district shared with Clarksburg, Mass.

A special town meeting in Clarksburg last week and another on July 8 in Stamford gave the OK for process on creating a merged school district to continue.

For the committee on Monday night, the goal was to craft a request for proposals for a part-time consultant to work over the next seven months.

A first draft was made off the RFP used last year to hire Public Consulting Group, which did the research to get the process to this point.

"I think that's the easiest way to just continue with the way we did it before," said member Kimberly Roberts-Morandi. "I think most of what you do have in there, it works."

There would have to be dates entered and clarification of the funding still available through Clarksburg, estimated at about $35,000, and a review of relevant topics such as contracts, budget apportioning, governance and the legislative process.

"I've since made additional changes just looking at it," Kimberly-Morandi said. "But I think it can also then be compared to the last one because the last one was looked at legally. And that would benefit us to just at least if we match it, we know that we've met the criteria."

The committee agreed that the hours should be no more than 19. There was some concern whether that would be enough time for one person, but "if they're on top of their game, they should be able to do this," said member Carl McKinney.

In all, the consultant would put in more than 500 hours and be required to update the merger committee on a regular schedule. Roberts-Morandi said she would get an edited draft out for the committee members to review and another meeting would be scheduled for a final signoff.

Members also determined it was important to continue to keep their state legislators abreast of the progress. Stamford School officials also have been in contact with Education Secretary Dan French, who toured the school on July 22.

"He actually said that for a small town, small school, he was very impressed with the condition of the facilities and the upkeep," said member and School Board Chairwoman Cynthia Lamore. "And of course, it didn't hurt that Carl Newsome was here working on the window project ... so that was great."

Lamore said French, who lives in Manchester, was also cognizant of Stamford's geographic location.

"So in order to come here, he came out to Williamstown (Mass.) and came up through," she said. "He was disappointed that he didn't see where Clarksburg School was because he thought it would be on the main road coming up."

She said she explained the school is on a well-maintained secondary road and they talked about Clarksburg's then upcoming vote and the probable boundary modifications to the supervisory union.

"The actual focus of the visit was what was happening in Southern Valley [Unified Union School District]," she said. "But because we were still unsettled here he just wanted see how things are going. ... And if there was a contingency."

Lamore said she had told him if the merger failed, the school would likely go back to the drawing board and ask Southern Valley if it could join. Or, see if the school could just stand, as Act 46, which has forced consolidations across the state, expired on July 1. The law's purpose was to reduce the number of small districts across the state within a particular period of time.

"Yes, it's expired. But what comes next?" asked member Kelly Holland. "This initial phase may be expired, but I don't believe for instant they're going to say, 'OK, Stamford, you've just ducked yourself out of it.'"

The Vermont Supreme Court on July 1 rejected a request from 33 school boards to delay consolidation and the Legislature failed to pass a measure that would grant an extension. The State Board of Education, however, voted last October to endorse Stamford's exploration of an interstate school districct.

Tags: interstate ,   merger,   stamford school,   

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Clarksburg Town Meeting Passes $4.6M Budget, OKs Truck Purchase

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Select Board member Allen M. Arnold is sworn into office by Jeanne Moulthrop, voted temporary town clerk for the meeting.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — A sparse town meeting burned through a 19-article warrant on Wednesday night under sunny skies. 
The meeting, held on the lawn of the Senior Center because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, swiftly approved a town budget of $4,565,710 and the purchase of a new Department of Public Works truck for $250,000.
Based on the financial articles passed on Wednesday, including a transfer of $98,000 from free cash to reduce the tax rate, the property tax rate is estimated at $17.86 per $1,000 valuation, three cents lower than this year.
The town has a current free cash fund of $518,892; town meeting also approved transferring $250,000 in free cash to the stabilization account and using $64,138.20 to pay off the library loan. 
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