Master Planning Task Force Continues

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Thursday February 26, 2015

As the City/School Master Planning and Visioning Task Force has continued to delve into their charge, questions on what exactly that mission comprises have come to the fore. At their ninth meeting, held February 17, Superintendent David Young and City Manager Kevin Dorn presented a clarifying document as a means to ground the conversations. Young emphasized the importance of doing their work in harmony with the city, not in isolation. The task force will continue to consider options for the future of the city’s schools and develop a consensus view on key aspects of South Burlington’s future. They will then make recommendations to the board and council on how best to serve the community.

Questions have evolved throughout the process, such as what will take the place of Central School if the community decides to sell it? Dorn explained that is not part of their charge. What the task force does or does not want to see in that location, ultimately, is not in their purview. The task force, however, will continue to consider issues such as school enrollment trends, recommending alternative uses for current public buildings, creating visions/goals for the district, and most importantly, listening to what the community wants.

A Range of Options

Paula Cope of Cope and Associates, who will be facilitating the community meeting scheduled for March 31, urged the task force to develop a set of choices based on a varied range of options. She reminded the group that the considerations to keep in mind while creating options are school vision, city vision, disruptions, cost after benefits, and economic development. Their aim should be to engage and inform the community and to get a good look into the minds of the citizens.

School District Costs Update

At the last meeting, Business Manager John Stewart outlined bonded debt, utility savings, and potential personnel efficiencies in several different elementary school reconfiguration options. At that time, the task force asked for physical education, art, and music teachers to be factored into the numbers for the next presentation. On February 17 Stewart showed that the total estimated savings of the option with two elementary schools (Orchard plus one newly constructed school) would be 6.70 personnel or $471,429. For one single consolidated elementary school, the savings would be 11.70 personnel or $787,940.

Stewart’s prior presentation generated questions to add to the task force’s “parking lot” of future topics. Some members wondered if there were any stewardship costs that could be deferred. Stewart explained that while the HVAC system upgrades slated for FY 2017 at Central and Orchard could potentially be deferred, he would not recommend deferring the replacement of the boiler at Chamberlin since it is 50 years old.

Options Discussion Continues

Chair Art Klugo presented a detailed document that outlined a cost analysis of the four options discussed at the last meeting. The documents reflected 20, 25 and 30-year models of projected costs and savings for each option. Discussions surrounded funding sources, bonded debt, and tax implications. Task Force member Abby Crocker wondered aloud if there were different ways to re-purpose current vacant structures in South Burlington rather than building new every 50 years. “We should make a concerted effort as a city now to use vacant buildings as opposed to continuing to eat up green space,” Crocker said. Although values/ecology is not currently a consideration on the task force’s list, a member of Cope’s team suggested adding “land usage” into future discussions of the options.

Although ‘bookending’ or creating a range of options was the primary goal of the February 17 meeting, the process was complex as task force members waded through the considerable details of each configuration. After lengthy debate, seven options were identified for cost analysis in preparation for the next meeting:

The next task force meeting will take place Monday, March 9 and the community meeting is slated for March 31. You can keep up to date on task force work by checking out the meeting minutes and documentation on the city website: