Are you aware of Ripton’s recent vote to withdraw from the Addison Central School District (ACSD)?  

Backstory:
On January 12, 2021, the town of Ripton voted to withdraw from ACSD. This vote came after almost two years of failed attempts to engage the people in power to come up with creative solutions for Ripton Elementary School to stay open. It became certain that the school would close.

The townspeople of Ripton took action to defend the school, and now we need your help by ratifying the vote in your town. On town meeting day, March 2nd 2021, all towns in the ACSD (Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham, and Weybridge) will be asked to vote on this issue. In spite of Ripton’s vote by a significant majority to withdraw from ACSD, Ripton will rely on your vote to allow it to leave the ACSD and keep the Ripton Elementary School open.


Q: How will Ripton’s withdrawal affect my taxes?

A: In all likelihood, you will not see any significant tax ramifications if Ripton withdraws. Even in the numbers recently put forth by the board in opposition to RIpton’s departure, both scenarios (Ripton leaving and keeping its school or Ripton’s school being closed but its students expected to attend an ACSD school) resulted in tax savings for the rest of the district.  The latter scenario resulted in infinitesimally more savings (0.03% or 1/3 of a penny on the dollar).

Ripton has one of the smallest schools in the district, so it is also one of the most expensive to run. Without Ripton, the per pupil spending in the rest of the district is minimally impacted, and in one initial study, the per pupil spend actually decreased in the rest of the district with Ripton out of the equation. Also, keep in mind that, as it is modeled, Ripton would continue to contribute to ACSD’s bottom line by tuitioning its secondary students to MUMS and MUHS. We feel confident that Ripton’s departure will have a revenue-neutral effect on the other towns.

Below is an estimated cost projection put together by a Weybridge local and whose estimates were affirmed to be reasonable by former ACSD Business Manager, Brittany Gilman. Gilman agreed that, Ripton's withdrawal will have "negligible" tax implications for the other towns.


FY22 Proposed Budget FY22 Projected Students Cost Per Student


FY22 Proposed BudgetFY22 Projected StudentsCost Per Student
Ripton$721,28336$20,036
Weybridge$693,57536$19,266
Bridport$1,046,47057$18,359
Salisbury$1,124,70470$16,067
Cornwall$1,117,92274$15,107
Mary Hogan$4,856,810385$12,615
Shoreham $987,76695$10,398
Total With Ripton$10,548,530753$14,009
Total Without Ripton$9,827,247717$13,706
**These projections are based on the assumption that the sixth grade will be moved to MUMS and do not include tuition students from Hancock and Granville in the denominator.


Q: What will Ripton do if they win this vote?

A: It will maintain its own elementary school. We will also continue to serve as an important resource for children from Hancock and Granville who are bussed over for elementary school. Our secondary students will continue to head down the mountain, as tuition students, most likely to MUMS and MUHS.


Q: Will Ripton’s withdrawal increase the likelihood that additional small schools will now be slated to close?

A: The activism around this vote has contributed to the board recently putting the entire facilities master plan on hold.  This is encouraging for everyone who feels protective of their community school.  We believe that Ripton’s self - initiated withdrawal will help the district’s bottom line as far as finances, and thereby should not add to their incentive to close additional schools.  In effect, we are asking for the same thing the board intended with their plans: to remove the expense of Ripton’s school from the ACSD budget. In addition, Ripton’s activism provides a model for other towns who feel their voice is not being heard by this school board.  


Q: Does Ripton still want to leave in spite of the facilities master plan being put on hold?


A: It has been made very clear that there is no plan moving forward, which includes keeping Ripton Elementary School open.  The master plan has been put on hold more than once, but not once has Ripton’s school’s survival been included in a list of alternative solutions.  At this point, Ripton has legally voted to leave the district, so irregardless of the forward motion of the facilities plan, we now need the other towns to ratify our vote.


Q: Is Ripton’s withdrawal fair from the standpoint of equity?

A: Ripton is seeking to maintain an institution that is based on equity.  We want a tight-knit community where people of all ages won’t slip through the cracks.  We believe that maintaining a school at the center of that community sets a standard of accountability and success.  If you poll current and future Ripton parents, you will hear that they are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping this school open.  


Q: How would Ripton’s departure affect the tax burden on low and moderate income residents in Ripton?

A: The school tax situations for a new Ripton district would be the same as they have been under ACSD. In other words, there is the homestead exemption and also the income exemption, meaning that school taxes apply only in full to the home and two acres rather than the total property holdings. As for income, I think that those below $120,000 pay their school tax based on income rather than property value. That will be the same for Ripton residents in the new district, should the new district come to pass. There is also the prospect of the State House making changes in school funding legislation. There are current discussions at the state level about income taxes being the source of all school taxing purposes, but that seems to be not in play at present.


Q: Where will RIpton’s secondary students go?

A: As for high school and middle school access, there is more decline in student population right now at the secondary levels than there is at the elementary levels, so we do not anticipate that the ACSD will fail to find room at MUMS and MUHS for our students. The real question is how the state will assign us to a supervisory union. We anticipate that Ripton will have school choice for our students, meaning that our school board can designate which secondary schools parents can choose for their children: it might be in Middlebury or Bristol or Vergennes or even other districts.


Q: What will happen with Ripton’s sixth-graders?

A: The 6th grade question is a good one. This will be decided after a Ripton school board is formed should we win withdrawal. Town-wide polling and input will drive the future model for RES.


Q: Will Ripton’s departure dissolve the ACSD?:

A: Based on the statute 16 V.S.A. § 724, there is a possibility that the State Board of Education can dissolve ACSD; however, when you consider “it shall [also] determine whether it is in the best interests of the State, the students, and the school districts remaining in the unified union school district that the unified union district continue to exist” you might realize that dissolution is actually a slim possibility and it’s more likely the State Board would “declare that the unified union district shall continue to exist despite the withdrawal of [Ripton].”

The remaining ACSD students and staff will be reconfigured and “repurposed” based on seniority like what is currently happening in the district with the 6th grade move and the future closing of schools. Ripton withdrawing should not affect teachers who wish to remain employed by ACSD.

The full statute is here: https://le gislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/16/011/00724

Provided by Save Our School, LLC
Molly Witters, President
Millard Cox, Vice-President
Joanna Doria, Secretary
Erin Robinson, Treasurer
www.saveourschoolsvt.org

Worried about the tax implications Ripton withdrawal could have on your town? See email exchange below! Huge thanks to our friend, Jenny Phelps in Weybridge, for her legwork in obtaining this!

“Hi Jenny,

I think your logic here is sound. Without doing a more thorough analysis, I'm not comfortable making the assertion that the withdrawal could actually reduce our ES/EP, but I do feel comfortable saying that I think any impact would be negligible. I don't think you're missing anything big here.

Thanks!
Brittany

On Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 4:31 PM Jenny Phelps <jcon99@gmail.com> wrote:
Hi Brittany -

I know you're heading into your last week but was hoping I could tap your expertise one final time before you leave.

There have been lots of questions coming in about the tax implications for other towns if Ripton withdraws. I know this is a near impossible task to answer definitively right now but am hoping you can validate conceptually that Ripton withdrawing should have little to no impact on the ES/EP for the remaining towns. If anything, it's possible there could be a very minor tax benefit to other towns from Ripton withdrawing from what I can tell but I'm not sure it's significant enough to warrant figuring out the exact amount.

This is an oversimplified model but, using the FY22 Proposed Budget and Projected Students from the 01-11-2021, I came up with a cost per student in each elementary school. I know this isn't fully loaded with central office costs, secondary school costs, etc but - conceptually - I think it follows the logic that the central office & school board have been explaining that smaller schools cost more per pupil to educate students than larger schools. Since the secondary students will be almost a net zero effect if they attend MUMS/MUHS (tuition fees + any billable SPED costs sent back to the sending town), they don't really factor in and since I think most other consolidated costs are billed back to the schools based on their % of student population, that shouldn't significantly impact the formula either.

I can't think of any reason why withdrawing Ripton would INCREASE the ES/EP for the remaining towns based on logic and the data below. Do you agree? Is there anything major I'm not considering that could cause other towns' taxes to go up?”







Summary: In 2016 the 7 towns voted to dissolve the ASCU and form the ACSD,  which is now governed by a single school board that began consolidated governance of all schools in FY18.  Although withdrawal from a newly unified district is difficult, it has already been accomplished by several Vermont towns. The three steps involved in this process are outlined below along with potential pros, cons, unexpected pitfalls and long-terms costs.

A three step process to withdraw:

Step 1) Community members present their town Select Board (e.g. Ripton) with a petition to withdraw the town from the ACSD. the Select board warns a town-wide vote, which must pass by a simple majority.

  • Ripton won their town vote on January 12.


Step 2) A town-wide vote is held in the other 6 ACSD towns in which they must approve withdraw of that town by a simple majority (e.g. Ripton).

  • This vote is set for Town Meeting Day, March 2nd.

Step 3) The Vermont State Board of Education must approve the withdraw and confirm that the town (e.g. Ripton) has adequate facilities and governance structure (e.g. school board) to manage their newly formed town school district.


FAQ's about withdrawal:

Who manages the school after withdrawal?

The town must manage and fund their schools. For ACSD towns this would mean a return to managing their elementary schools in the exact same fashion as was done through FY17.

Who manages the elementary school after withdrawal?

The K-6 elementary school would be managed by a locally elected school board in a similar fashion as it was prior to FY 2017.

What happens to grade 7-12 students after withdrawal?

"From: Chris A. Kramer
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2020 9:05 AM
To: Russo-Savage, Donna <Donna.RussoSavage@vermont.gov>
Subject: Withdrawal Guidance - SU Question

EXTERNAL SENDER: Do not open attachments or click on links unless you recognize and trust the sender.
Hi Donna,

This is Chris Kramer in Cornwall. I am writing to seek some clarification on the Agency of Education's withdrawal guidance memo (https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-governance-guidance-withdrawal-dissolution-union-school-district.pdf).

Specifically, on the following issue:

Could you clarify whether a new SU could (at the state board's discretion) potentially include the remaining districts as one unified union district, and the withdrawing district as a separate district, all under one SU umbrella, if the state board chose to create such an SU?

Looking at the state map of SUs, it appears there are a number of examples of structures like this.

Thank you for your clarification.

-Chris


Hello –

Thank you for your question.

The Agency’s legal staff is happy to provide guidance, but it’s important for you to know that only the district’s lawyer can provide it with legal advice. As is our practice, I’ve cc’d your superintendent in case others ask him similar questions.

If a member withdraws from a unified union school district (“UUSD”), and so becomes its own PK-12 town school district (regardless of whether it is operating all grades, tuitioning all grades, or operating some grades and tuitioning the others) and the UUSD remains a district with one fewer member, then I can think of three SU-related possibilities. Please note that the districts involved could make their preference known, but long-standing statutes have granted sole decision-making authority to the State Board of Education.

1. The State Board could designate the town school district as its own supervisory district (its own single district SU) if the State Board determines that the town school district “is large enough to support the planning and administrative functions of a supervisory union.” There would be one board (elected) and one budget.

OR

2. The State Board could create an SU around the town school district and the UUSD. So there would be three boards – the town school district and the UUSD boards (both elected bodies), and the SU board (an appointed body) – and three budgets.

OR

3. The State Board could allow the UUSD to remain as its own supervisory district (a single district SU) and assign the town school district to a nearby SU by redrawing the boundaries of that other SU.

Please let me know if you have additional questions or need clarification.

Take good care –

Donna

Donna Russo-Savage, Staff Attorney
Agency of Education"











Summary:  This timeline reflects major events in the school consolidation process including community resistance.  A timeline maintained by ACSD can be found below. A constantly updated Google Doc can also be found below.



Why Ripton Has Voted to Withdraw from ACSD
Written by Jenny Phelps (Weybridge)

In discussions with people in the Addison Central School District, I find, as an advocate of Ripton withdrawal from ACSD, that many people do not know why Ripton voted to withdraw from the District. Here is why I believe Ripton is seeking withdrawal:

It is best to have our own school right here in our town where our young children can be taught and cared for as an integral part of our community. That is why we built and paid for our town school. For 27 years after our school was built in 1989, we successfully educated our elementary children in Ripton, elected our own school board and voted our own budget. This is the situation we wish to return to.

In the Ripton community we have the interests of our own children in mind and in heart, and believe that we know them better and understand their needs more completely. We want to provide our children with a quality education in our school and bring into our school the very best professional educators and caregivers.

There is a democratic vision in which every Ripton citizen has a right to a voice and vote in the education of the town's children. This vision is what we prefer over the prospect of a town with no school, whose citizens have no voice in the education of their children, and whose vote within the larger district is so small as to have no influence.

Ripton parents have a right to convenient access to their children's educators and to the school in which their children learn. Sending our children to two different schools in two different towns will not afford Ripton parents that right. Nor will that situation benefit our students.

Sending our young Ripton children to schools where 20 or more is the standard for classroom numbers will not be an advantage for them, or for any ACSD students. Also, splitting Ripton children between Salisbury and Middlebury further divides their community.

In a democracy, the right of voters in Ripton and in all towns to elect their own delegate(s) to represent them on their school board must be granted.

The residents of a town who decide to build their own school have the right to decide to close that school. It should not be the prerogative of another town or a district school board to close that school unless the town ratifies the decision.

Ripton does not want to be a burden to or have a negative impact on the other ACSD towns. Our effort to withdraw is because we value our school and do not want it closed.

I do not pretend to speak for all the people of Ripton. But if you find these reasons rational and justified, I hope that you will vote to release Ripton from ACSD on March 2.

Summary: "The $3.3M in annual personnel cost savings asserted to exist for the Three School Model bundles cost reductions accrued by a 30% staff reduction at the Mary Hogan school. These staff reductions should be identified in the budget’s public policy discourse as an independent cost reduction option from the decision to close or keep open a subset of the rural elementary schools. Including the substantial 30% Mary Hogan school staff reductions in the cost savings tally could lead the public to believe the budget cost savings are attributed to the closing of rural schools when they are staff reductions in Middlebury’s school."

(Source: A Socially Equitable Four School Solution https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fshorehamvt.org%2Fvertical%2Fsites%2F%257B1FC608F9-A057-4578-8148-68F12F99BC10%257D%2Fuploads%2FSPC_ACSD_Social_Equity_Solution_Proposal_2020_0928.pdf&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNG8zvkAOsc11ygCOzGLmHDkff8jyA p. 8)


"The proposed Three School Model reduces the district’s elementary school staffing by 38% through the elimination of 4 rural schools and a drastic cut of the para-educator staff at Mary Hogan. Approximately, 41% of the cuts are at Mary Hogan and the remaining 59% from closing rural schools." (source: A Socially Equitable Four School Solution p. 26)

Mary Hogan is projected to increase current K-5 enrollment by 33% (360 to 480 students) but actually decrease current K-5 staffing by 30% (94.5 to 66 staff)

K-5 Paras are modeled to decrease from 59 district-wide (with 38 currently at Mary Hogan) to 15 district-wide (with only 7 remaining at Mary Hogan)


The projections call for Mary Hogan, Salisbury & Bridport to collectively increase K-5 enrollment from 473 to 720 (over a 50% increase) but collectively REDUCE their current K-5 staffing levels by 16 staff members


A total of 69 K-5 positions will be eliminated across the elementary schools; 57 from direct student support positions


Bridport is projected to increase K-5 enrollment by 145% (49 to 120) but only increase current K-5 staffing by 58% (14.85 to 23.5)


Salisbury is projected to increase K-5 enrollment by 88% (64 to 120) but only increase current K-5 staffing by 17% (20.05 to 23.5)


The 7 elementary schools make up less than 30% of the total ACSD budget. The projections will cut 11% of all ACSD staff. An 11% cut in overall ACSD staff shouldn’t be concentrated in just 30% of ACSD.

Current ACSD Staffing Data:




(Data from : https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mzu7G6AJ2rXc44LrE353EXrP33850tlJwRs8JwYyqis/edit?ts=5f32897f )


Proposed Staffing for the 3 school model



(Data from here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mzu7G6AJ2rXc44LrE353EXrP33850tlJwRs8JwYyqis/edit?ts=5f32897f )

Summary: Enrollments are inherently difficult to predict . The least controversial approach is to use past enrollments to predict the future.  FY 2021 saw a moderate uptick in enrollments.  The COVID  crisis has fueled a pulse of home sales and building in Addison County that may or may not translate to a further uptick in FY22 enrollments.  


Total ACSD/ACSU enrollments
FY10-FY20 data from from this ACSD facilities report
FY21 data (1648 students) from ACSD personal communication







ACSD enrollment data for FY20 (2019-2020)


Summary: It is difficult to understand exactly what the ACSD's 'bottom line' is in terms of budget cuts.   "In their public discussions to date [9/28/20], the ACSD Board has discussed the potential need for a 10% annual budget reduction."

(source: A Socially Equitable Four School Solution, p. 10
https://shorehamvt.org/vertical/sites/%7B1FC608F9-A057-4578-8148-68F12F99BC10%7D/uploads/SPC_ACSD_Social_Equity_Solution_Proposal_2020_0928.pdf 

Facts about the ACSD Budget:

"The ACSD Board has already scheduled staff reductions at the Middlebury Union Middle School (MUMS) as part of migrating the sixth grade classes out of the elementary schools." This could result in roughly $698,000 in annual cost savings.

(source: A Socially Equitable Four School Solution, section 3 https://shorehamvt.org/vertical/sites/%7B1FC608F9-A057-4578-8148-68F12F99BC10%7D/uploads/SPC_ACSD_Social_Equity_Solution_Proposal_2020_0928.pdf )

ACSD Per pupil spending
Source: ACSD Budget Books 
(https://www.acsdvt.org/Page/153)





ACSD Expenses
Data source: ACSD Budget Books (https://www.acsdvt.org/Page/153)
Projections: hypothetical





   
Summary: Although the school consolidation effort is often termed the 'Facilities Master Plan,' facilities make up a small part of the savings from school consolidation. Likewise, most school buildings have many years of useful life ahead of them and require only a couple hundred thousand dollars of immediate repair to continue functioning.

Important facts about ACSD facilities:

  • Facilities costs make up less than 4% of the ACSD Total Budget; staffing costs make up over 75%.

  • TruexCullins identified $10.9M of deferred maintenance needs at Mary Hogan, Salisbury, and Bridport yet no renovations are planned until at least 2023.


Proposed square footage under the Three School Model with and without a bond issue to fund renovations.

(source: A Socially Equitable Four School Solution, p.36)


The School Board is eager to hear your questions! Reach them by email or phone here https://www.acsdvt.org/Page/4578 

You don't need expert opinions to contact the school board! Share a simple question or your feelings about school closure.

Suggested questions for the school board:

  • Where is the mandate for budget cuts and school closure coming from? Has the ACSD board demonstrated they have support of the communities they serve?

  • Schools are a social safety net that redistributes resources from rich to poor and helps protect our most vulnerable children. Why would we cut this safety net at a time when low-income families need help the most?

  • How much money does ACSD want to save by budget cuts? Is this number flexible? What are the options to save this money?

  • If school closure goes ahead, what fraction of the savings will be reinvested in staffing, student support, and expanded curriculum?

  • What is the rush to close schools? Why does the decision need to be finalized by March 2021?

  • What feedback did the school board receive from the Front Porch Conversations? How has this feedback been shared?

  • Does the school board plan to survey the entire ACSD community, not just those who attend the Front Porch events?

  • If roughly 1/3 of staff are cut, how will remaining teachers be able to maintain the existing quality of education?