Woodford merger vote affirmed; Pownal to recount results

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WOODFORD — A recount in Woodford has upheld the town's Nov. 7 rejection of a proposed Act 46 merger of five Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union school districts.

Meanwhile, Pownal is next up for a recount of its election results, which will take place on Monday.

Woodford Town Clerk Susan Wright said the Board of Civil Authority recounted the Nov. 7 ballots Thursday morning and came up with the same result: 36 to 38 against the plan.

Coupled with Pownal's rejection of the proposed merger under Act 46 provisions, the plan went down to defeat.

While voters in Bennington and Shaftsbury overwhelmingly approved a merger of the Bennington, Shaftsbury, Pownal, Woodford and Mt. Anthony Union school districts, at least three of the four towns had to vote in favor to form the regional district.

If the Pownal recount reverses the negative 210-214 vote, the new combined K-12 district would be considered approved and would be created over the next year by those who were elected Nov. 7 to serve on a proposed regional board.

Pownal Assistant Town Clerk Julie Weber said Thursday that she received a written request from a resident within the 10-day deadline following the vote and scheduled a recount with the Board of Civil Authority for Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The merger was approved in total across the four communities, 1,533 to 766. Bennington voted 965 to 338 in favor and Shaftsbury voted 322 to 176 to approve the plan.

Rejection of the plan on Nov. 7 meant that the merger could not be approved through a revote before a Nov. 30 deadline set by the state in order to qualify for school tax reductions under the Act 46 process.

But if the Pownal vote is reversed through a recount, the deadline apparently would be met, and the merged district created in time for the towns involved to receive tax reductions. The reductions would be calculated over four years in decreasing amounts off the tax rate over that period.

Without the merged district in place, districts must submit a report to the State Board of Education on how they can meet the goals of Act 46 with the current structures.

Act 46 provides tax incentives for districts that consolidate but also authorizes the state to combine districts that haven't adopted their own consolidation plan.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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