Woodford, Pownal plan Act 46 vote recounts

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POWNAL — A recount of the Nov. 7 Act 46 school district merger vote is scheduled for this morning in Woodford and one is expected soon in Pownal.

Woodford Town Clerk Susan Wright said the town Board of Civil Authority will meet at 10 a.m. to recount only those votes cast for or against the proposed Act 46 merger of five local districts that are part of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union.

The Woodford vote Nov. 7 was 36 to 38 against the plan, which along with Pownal's negative vote, defeated the proposal. Pownal voted 210 to 214 against.

The merger was approved overwhelmingly, across the four communities, 1,533 to 766.

Bennington voted 965 to 338 in favor and Shaftsbury voted 322 to 176 to approve the plan. But at least three districts had to approve a new merged K-12 district, which also would include the Mt. Anthony Union Middle and High School District.

Pownal Assistant Town Clerk Julie Weber said Wednesday that she also has received a request from residents for a recount and plans to check with the Secretary of State's Office today on how to proceed.

Wright said she called the state office and was told that a recount was required if the vote margin was within 5 percent if requested by a registered Woodford voter. She said the recount had to be requested within 10 days of the election.

Rejection of the plan on Nov. 7 meant that the merger could not be approved through a revote before a Nov. 30 deadline set by the state in order to qualify for school tax reductions under the Act 46 process.

However, if the vote in either town is reversed through a recount, the deadline apparently would be met, and the merged district created in time for the towns involved to receive tax reductions. Those reductions were estimated by merger supporters to total about $5 million in the first year for the four towns.

Without the merged district in place, each district must submit a report to the State Board of Education on how can meet the goals of Act 46 with their current structures. Representatives from the Agency of Education have speculated that SVSU schools are likely to be merged by the state as officials put together a statewide educational governance plan by 2019.

Act 46 provides tax incentives over four years for districts that consolidate but also includes provisions allowing the state to implement a merger plan for those that haven't adopted their own consolidation plan.

The merger proposal was formulated by an Act 46 Study Committee appointed by the boards of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and approved by the state board.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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