Dorset votes yes for merger, OKs budgets

Debate over the proposed Taconic & Green school district merger, as prompted by State Act 46, took up much of Dorset's town meeting on Monday, before voters approved the merger by a 224-109 vote on Tuesday.

Town voters also on Tuesday approved the proposed municipal and school budgets, and replacing the town board of listers with a full-time assessor.

On Monday, residents voiced concern about representation on the proposed district's school board, on assumed debts from towns included in the district, and the time frame for the proposed merger. Dorset was one of three districts on which the future of the Act 46 merger hinged; Manchester and the Mountain Towns RED were the others.

"I have some very serious concerns about it not only short term, but long term," said town resident Ralph Colin. "If we are to turn down the merger then it will not exist ... but we will only be guaranteed one representative out of thirteen on the school board if this merger is passed."

Colin and other residents of Dorset strongly objected to the State mandate through Act 46 to form a regional education district now or be placed into one next year, Many suggested postponing the merger until next year's town meeting.

"The reason to act now is because we will have access to a small tax break. If we don't approve the merger, and are forced to join the regional district a year from now, we will be subsidizing the tax breaks for the districts that did approve this merger," responded David Chandler, the chair of the Dorset School Board. "If we're going in this direction anyway, which I believe we do want to do, then now is a good time to do it."

"It seems to me that since other regional units have already been formed North of us, as Act 46 says `thou shalt merge or we will merge you,' and because our educators have agreed that this is a good idea, it seems to me that the time is now," Clarissa Lennox said.

On Tuesday, voters approved of that merger, and by a 256-90 vote approved the Dorset schools' proposed $5.47 million school budget.

The $1.96 million town budget passed 305-36.

At Monday's meeting, town officers presented their reports on topics ranging from the vote on the abolition of the town listers office, the hiring of a full-time sheriff's deputy to cover Dorset, and the acquisition of new public lands including the Owl's Head property.

Motions passed without discussion regarding funds to be borrowed by the Select Board, the collection of property taxes in two installments, and the funding of equipment to be purchased for the highway department.

Finally, the town of Dorset approved appropriations for sixteen organizations including the Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council, the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging, the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, the Dorset Historical Society, and the Dorset Village Library totaling $173,700.

There were no contested elections for Dorset's town offices.

Cherise Madigan is a Journal correspondent.



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