Letter: In favor of compromise in Pawlet, Rupert

To the Editor:

The Pawlet-Rupert school district merger process has been divisive, but there is a real desire in our communities to find a way forward that heals rifts and also provides all students in the area, regardless of means, with access to education in Vermont. The proposed merger would retain Pawlet and Rupert's designation to New York middle and high schools, but the families of nearly 50 percent of the students in Pawlet and Rupert pay out of pocket to send their kids to Vermont public and independent schools. Solely supporting kids to attend the designated New York schools does not reflect community needs. The proposed compromise would provide a more equitable way to educate our kids while being sensitive to concerns about property taxes.

By retaining designation to New York schools for middle school, and continuing support to send students there throughout high school, it also responds to concerns about the future vitality of our neighboring New York schools. Under the compromise, non-income sensitive residents—about 12 percent of Rupert resident tax payers and 18 percent of Pawlet resident taxpayers—would experience a modest change of about 7 cents per $100 of assessed value if all students continue to attend the NY or VT schools they're attending now; it would be slightly more or less depending upon how many families send their kids to New York schools. Even so, the New York State regulated, non-resident tuition charged by those schools would still be below the Vermont state tuition average. Income sensitivity reductions to property tax would still apply. There would be no change for owners of non-resident taxed property, as the non-resident tax rate is set at the state level.

The first chance for many community members to hear about the proposed compromise will be at an August 10 community forum. While few community members have received information about this compromise, the UD 47 Board (which includes members from both towns) voted to support it. Community members have signed a petition on Change.org in support of the compromise. (Go to Change.org and search "Pawlet.")

Regardless of how many generations we've lived in Pawlet or Rupert, we all want what's best for our kids and our community. This compromise is a reasonable way forward that respects the past while helps prepare our kids for the future.

Rhonda Schlangen

West Pawlet


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