State News

School boards appeal to Legislature regarding funding bill

In school budgets presented to voters on Town Meeting Day, school boards and administrators rose to the challenge of keeping spending growth below the state’s target of 2.5 percent. FY 2019 statewide education spending growth is estimated at 1.5 percent, with education spending per equalized pupil coming in at under 1 percent.

Ninety-six percent of school budgets were approved by voters in 142 school districts. With 140 districts reporting results, 135 district budgets passed, according to a news release March 7.

“Since the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session, our Associations have expressed an interest in working collaboratively with our members, the General Assembly and the Governor to take responsible steps to address FY 2019 fiscal concerns while preserving a strong public education system,” wrote Kerri Lamb, director of operations for the Vermont School Boards Association, in a statement.

“The responsible actions of school officials were clearly recognized by overwhelming voter support of school budgets this year,” Lamb wrote.

“However, the House Ways and Means Committee recently approved a bill that, if enacted, would alter the funding formula for FY 2019, potentially undermining the hard work of local officials whose proposed budgets were approved by large margins,” Lamb continued. “Our Associations call upon the General Assembly to acknowledge the work of school boards and administrators – who clearly have the support of their communities – and take no action to affect the education funding formula or school district budgets for FY 2019,” she said.

According to reporting by VTDigger, prompted by a $50 million deficit in the K-12 education fund, the revised education funding bill would eliminate income sensitivity and introduce a school income tax for all Vermont earners. As presented, the bill would lower property tax rates and shift sales tax revenues to the education fund. A school income tax would be based on adjusted gross income for all residents earning over $47,000.

The proposal is based on projected education fund rates set for FY2019, VTDigger reported.

“Vermont’s education system depends on a partnership between state and local officials,” said Nicole Mace, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association.

Jeff Francis, executive director for the Vermont Superintendents Association, also echoed this plea. “Local school officials have risen to the occasion in recent years in the areas of both cost containment and expanding opportunity. Their response to systems improvement through Act 46 is noteworthy. The General Assembly and Administration should recognize the good work being done locally as they consider all new proposals for laws and initiatives.”

The five districts that failed to pass their budgets include Alburgh, Cabot, Fletcher, Green Mountain Unified (Chester), and North Hero.

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