By Curt Peterson
On Oct. 5, WCSU Board Secretary Rayna Bishop issued a request for proposals for snow removal for three district campuses: Prosper Valley in Pomfret, Woodstock Elementary, and Woodstock Union High School/Middle School. The deadline for submission is October 28.
The topic is timely because a two-year moratorium on state penalties for school district overspending expires and will not protect the district’s FY2024 budget. The council is working on this budget.
Jim Haff of Killington, board member and chair of WCSU’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, explained that “who does the plowing” can affect school taxes in the district.
The National Board of Education determines both a cost cap target per student and the number of “equalized students” in the district. WCSU’s Board of Directors set its budget to be at or below this target to avoid sanctions.
The district’s final budget will be divided by the number of equalized, out-of-school students – but for every dollar over the cap, the district would have to return one dollar to the state, so to increase $1 in the penalty phase, one must $2 to be bred.
This surplus should be offset by spending cuts or tax increases, or both. School district-sponsored snow removal from each campus would make it more difficult to avoid the threshold penalty.
Bishop confirmed that the three other towns hosting schools, Killington, Reading and Barnard, will use their town’s equipment and crews to clean school properties this winter, relieving the district of that financial responsibility.
Haff said plowing the Killington campus costs between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
Barnard, Reading and Killington have included campus snow removal in their municipal budgets. The cost of snow removal would be the same regardless of who pays; transferring the cost to the municipality helps the school district manage its finances and saves district ratepayers.
WCSU Buildings and Grounds Director Joe Rigoli said, “We met with the City of Woodstock and they refused to plow at Woodstock Elementary.”
“We have inquired about the possibility of the town of Pomfret plowing Prospect Valley,” Rigoli continued, “and hope to engage with them shortly.”
Haff said Killington has been plowing its campus for a few years and will continue to do so because it is in the interest of taxpayers.
Barnard’s Rob Ramrath told the Mountain Times that Barnard Academy’s plowable driveway is designated municipal road (TH81), so the town clears it naturally.
Some consider the middle school/high school campus to be different, as students come from all seven home towns – why should the Woodstock team plow “everyone’s snow”.
Haff said the budget and any penalties are calculated on a district basis — what Killington is doing has the potential to affect each town’s taxes, and any money the district saves on MS/HS plowing will do the same. . The Mountain Times contacted Reading, Pomfret and Woodstock, but did not receive a response before publication.