Another Opinion, Editorial

Closing Lakeview

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by Karl Stein

Patrick Larson’s February 20 post regarding “Closing Lakeview” stated that “For those wondering, the cost to educate a student at both Woodbury and Hardwick Elementary is in the neighborhood of $15,000/pupil. At Lakeview the cost is $31,317/pupil. Any argument that doesn’t acknowledge equity disparity and affordability is tone deaf.”

I’d like to identify and respond to several misunderstandings implicit in Larson’s statement:

First, as far as our supervisory union and the State are concerned, there are not 3 budgets. The Mountain View Union District (MVUD) is one school with 3 campuses. There are 300 students in the OSSU District; the 2025 amount budgeted is $8,535,233. Before each individual town applies its CLA (common level of appraisal) the cost would be $7,943,177, to educate these students. This is the figure in place of Mr. Larson numbers to come up with his cost/per student. Here are the numbers provided by our Supervisory Union office for calculating Student Cost/Pupil from MVUD FAQ

Hardwick Elementary School’s per pupil cost is $24,362 for 222 students allocated a total of $5,408,337.

Lakeview Union School’s per pupil cost is $44,230 with its 27 students allocated $1,194,222.

Woodbury School’s $25,781 per pupil cost comes from dividing the allocated $1,340,617 by its 51 students.

The entire Mountain View School District has 300 students with a $7,943,177 budget, yielding an overall average per pupil cost of $26,477.

Using those numbers for Larson’s math, he is saying, if we send all of the Lakeview students to Hardwick Elementary school, the cost to educate them at Hardwick Elementary would be $24,361.68 instead of the $44,230.45 at Lakeview Elementary. Using his math that would leave a savings of $19,868.57 per student X 27 = $536,451.38. This is why the writers of the petition were implying Greensboro would see a large savings.

Sounds great, but it is not how the schools, district or state builds the budget. Rather, the budget is based on one budget for one school, with three campuses. The budgeted cost for 300 students without equalizing pupil cost is $26,477.26, The state gives the district its equalized pupil count under act 127 of 601.12 students. That makes the per pupil amount $13,213.96.

Thus, Mr. Larson’s argument is misleading. The problem is compounded by the fact that approximately 92% of the costs of educating students are fixed costs and those fixed costs are not going to change regardless of which campus our students go to.

Second, although there would be some savings in the first year, those would not carry over to the following years. If we close Lakeview, Greensboro’s tax rate is not going to change because the only thing that affects our individual towns’ educational tax rates is the CLA (Common Level of Appraisal).

If all of our properties in all four towns were appraised at 100%, the education tax rates would be going down this year: Hardwick by $0.20 cents, Greensboro $0.16, Stannard $0.16 and Woodbury $0.12. The municipal tax rate depends on the size of the grand list, but the education tax rate does not. Again, because we have a single budget for one school with 300 students who attend three campuses, closing Greensboro would not change these figures for any of our towns.

Closing Greensboro is not going to reduce the budget or Hardwick’s taxes. Looking at individual pieces of data as Larson did is misleading and confusing.
Third, two research studies done in Vermont and others across the nation shows that students being educated in small schools go to the same colleges, have a slightly better rate of making it to graduation and the same percent of students go on to successful lives.

Greensboro is working with Rural Edge on adding more middle-income housing, so that may add more students in a couple of years. If Lakeview were not on the chopping block, Greensboro families who opted to send their children to Hardwick so they wouldn’t have to change schools might come back, as well as a few students from Hardwick who might choose a smaller school if Lakeview’s existence was stable. Hardwick might need more classrooms if major repairs are done or if the population grows. Lakeview’s population could easily grow without impacting the building. Of the three schools, Lakeview’s building has been determined by the state to be in better condition going forward.

Parents in Greensboro, Stannard, Hardwick and Woodbury feel passionately about their schools. Parents in Greensboro want their children to go to Lakeview and many townspeople and local employers feel passionately about maintaining a local school. Closing Lakeview will change their lives and the lives of Greensboro children. Since it won’t really change taxes or our budget, I can’t see how closing Lakeview will do anything for people in Hardwick, other than maybe making classrooms a bit more crowded. Summer residents and wealthier retirees in Greensboro may be less affected, but It will affect local Greensboro residents, most of whom are no wealthier than Hardwick residents.
Fourth, please remember as well that when you go to vote a “yes” vote means you are recommending to close Lakeview and a “no” vote means you are recommending to keep Lakeview open.

This opinion was originally posted on Front Porch Forum, March 4, before the March 5 advisory vote on closing Lakeview School.

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