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Town of Shaftsbury, VT
PO Box 409
61 Buck Hill Road
Shaftsbury, Vermont 05262

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Spinelli field Bond Request - Vote - September 10th

Posted: June 30, 2024

BENNINGTON – The Mount Anthony Union School Board has unanimously approved a special districtwide vote in September on bond funding for upgrades to the Spinelli Sports Complex at the high school.

The board also decided Tuesday to pursue fund-raising and field sponsorship proposals to offset some of the cost of an upgrade project. Those ideas will be discussed again at the board’s July meeting.

The request for up to $3 million in bond funding will be the same proposal put to voters during the annual March meetings, which was defeated by 81 votes from among 4,137 votes cast in the four MAU towns.

An earlier request, seeking $3.5 million, was defeated in 2021 on a districtwide tally of 1217 to 841. MAU Board considers new effort to fund Spinelli improvements

The MAU board decided in March to put the proposal to voters once again, in part because of the closeness of the second bond vote and because of continued deterioration of the Zemianek track around the football field and repeated water damage to the grass surfaces.

Issues include chronic standing water in wet weather, limiting use of the sports complex.

The board on Tuesday also scheduled a September 4 public information session about the bond proposal and the September 10 districtwide vote. The four MAU towns are Bennington, Pownal, Woodford and Shaftsbury.

The board also approved gathering information on potential fund-raising and/or sponsorship options toward the project funding, a suggestion both supporters and opponents of the proposal have floated.

Board Chairwoman Stephanie Mulligan said she would like to meet with Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Jim Culkeen and other administration officials to discuss possible fund-raising and field sponsorship options.

She recommended a further board discussion on the topic in July to allow such efforts “to hit the ground running” in advance of the September 10 vote.

Mulligan noted that the bond request is for up to $3 million, less any amounts raised through other means for the project.

Her recommendation was to consider accepting pledges from supporters of the project, which would only be collected if the bond passes in September, thus avoiding the question of how to set up a fund to legally accept and hold donations.

While grants will likely also be pursued, she said, it appears grant applications won’t be considered until the district has secured voter approval for a project.

Culkeen said Tuesday the district’s legal counsel also should be part of discussions of the fund-raising options, and he advised a lead role for such efforts for the Spinelli Ad Hoc Committee. The group is made up of an MAU administrator, two MAU Board members; two coaches, two student parents, and the MAU facilities director, and recommends to the MAU board concerning proposed Spinelli upgrades.

Spinelli committee Chairman Chad Gordon said Wednesday, “I’m encouraged by the continued support for the Spinelli field and the Zemianek track, and for [the board’s] support for the need to do this in a fiscally responsible way.”

Gordon stressed the argument of supporters that the proposed 10-year bond would spread over that time period upgrades and repairs that are needed and can’t be avoided indefinitely. Otherwise, he said, the district would have to fund the work through steep tax increases in annual budgets.

In March, the board decided against warning the vote on the date of the state primaries — August 13 — or along with the general election on November 5.

Primary elections in August historically have low voter turnouts, they said, while during a November election, turnout is heavy but many voters cast ballots that are automatically mailed to all voters.

The MAU bond warning would be a separate ballot that would not be mailed to voters.

Special MAU elections also typically see low comparatively turnouts, board members said, but in early September students would be back in school, and they and their parents might be mobilized to urge support for the bond.

Compliments of: The Bennington Banner
Posted/Author: Jim Therrien

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