Letter: BBA leaders on Winhall tuition decision

To the Editor:

As will certainly be reported in this edition of the Manchester Journal as well as in other newspapers, Burr and Burton has granted a one-time, one-year exception to allow Winhall to maintain its sending town status at the state-wide average tuition, thereby allowing current BBA students as well as rising 8th graders the opportunity to attend BBA next year without paying out of pocket. Here is how we reached this decision:

- Winhall was facing a property tax increase of over 25 percent, from approximately $1.90 per $100 [of assessed value] to a whopping $2.40 per $100 due to being placed in the "penalty box" through no fault of their own.This compares to the Taconic and Green rate of around $1.60.

- We have been partners with Winhall for almost two centuries.

- Mark Tashjian attended last week's Winhall board meeting and specifically asked if it were possible for BBA's tuition to be approved at Tuesday's town meeting. He was told

erroneously that the BBA tuition could be introduced as an amendment from the floor.

- We were informed less than 24 hours before the town meeting that in reality it was impossible for BBA`s tuition to be introduced as an amendment from the floor. Rather, to

approve BBA`s tuition would require a second town meeting at a later date. This was very different information than we have been provided previously and would have thrown

current and prospective BBA families into educational and financial limbo.

- This is a one-year exception to support families at BBA and to help the town avoid chaos so they can thoughtfully explore a long-term solution. It allows current BBA students to continue with their education at BBA. There was no provision to grandfather current BBA students; these kids were the ones who would pay the highest price were we to do nothing.

- Our actions is consistent with how we have partnered with sending towns in the past. As an example, when Act 60 was passed, creating a similar tax crisis, we reduced tuition by almost 10 percent for ALL sending towns. We are partners, and partners do not abandon each other in times of need.

- The $61,000 shortfall will be funded explicitly by raiding endowment reserves, which is possible in this instance but not a sustainable financial practice.

- Our clear expectation is that Winhall will pay our full sending town tuition next year either by properly warning our tuition, joining Taconic and Green, or finding some other


We recognize that it may seem unfair that one sending town pays a different tuition than others, even if only for a year, and we ask for your understanding for this special situation. Our alternative was to leave current BBA students twisting in the wind, something our sense of decency would not allow us to do.

Seth Bongartz, Chair, Board of Trustees

Mark Tashjian, Headmaster

Burr and Burton Academy


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