Petition looks to close village school
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | February 19,2013
CASTLETON — Frank Taggart said he believes taxpayers in Castleton will save a lot of money if the town closes the Village School and he is circulating a petition asking the School Board to put it on a special ballot for consideration.
Taggart, a general contractor in town, said the rising school taxes and the falling enrollment at the town’s elementary schools are what motivated him to draft the petition. He said it is “out of control.”
“We have got to stop somewhere,” he said during an interview in his office. “The towns of West Rutland and Proctor are K through 12 and they are doing it with less (money) than we are with K through 8.”
Taggart wants to move the sixth- through eighth-graders at the Village School on Mechanic Street to the Castleton Elementary School on Elementary School Road. It’s the same proposal both school boards considered a couple of years ago.
Enrollment at the Village School is 125 students, while the elementary school has 237 students.
Taggart said enrollment at both schools has continued to decline for many years, falling a combined 3 percent last year and a combined 4 percent this year.
He said for the merger to happen, some jobs would need to be cut — like one of the principals, a nurse and some custodians — but something needs to be done to save taxpayers money.
The proposed budget for the Castleton/Hubbardton Union School District is $5,856,264, which is up $228,154 more than this year’s budget of $5,628,110.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the numbers,” Taggart said. “I hate to see the principal and the custodians go, but something has to go.”
He said additional cost savings can be found in line items for some of the building and services and under building maintenance. With these cuts, the town could easily save close to $400,000 and this is without looking for more cuts, Taggart said.
“I have been in business for 50 years,” he said. “It’s tough to do, but the economy is saying we should do something.”
The Castleton/Hubbardton School Board considered closing the village school and moving all students to the elementary school in 2010. After listening to several architectural proposals, the board ultimately decided to merge the sixth grade class with the upperclassmen and moved them into the village.
At the time, the school determined it would be too costly to move the seventh and eighth graders to the elementary school — it would cost about $5 million to replicate the village school at a new location.
Taggart disagrees adding that the School Board could do it for less, much less, using the same proposals. He said costs would go down if the board does not include a proposed baseball field and if it lowers the contingency fund.
“It can be done in under $600,000,” he said.
The empty school building would then go to the town which he hopes can be used for town offices — another issue that is unnecessarily spending taxpayer money, he said.
Taggart said he presented the petition to the School Board two weeks ago and that two members signed it, though he declined to say who. He wants to present the signed petition to the School Board at its first meeting in March.