June 6 School Budget Vote: What you Need to Know

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Thursday June 01, 2017

The third vote on the 2017-18 school district budget will soon be upon us. While the wealth of information presented at meetings and online can be overwhelming, here are some key facts and figures you should know.

This third proposed budget comes in at $49,268,888. While this represents a 4.98 percent increase over FY ‘17, this bump is offset by non-property tax revenues of $12,046,081 (which is a 14.22 percent revenue increase over FY ‘17). This brings the net cost of the budget increase down to a 2.18 percent increase; which is in line with the district’s ten-year average for budgets. However, the number voters will see on the ballot, as required by state statute, is the budget total and cost per equalized pupil, which is $15,401, an increase of 2.32 percent. Of 266 school districts statewide, 109 spend more per pupil than South Burlington. South Burlington spends $21 more per student than the state average.

The recommended budget brings back funds for a contingency teacher to address possible elementary enrollment increases, per the board’s request, as well as providing a new teacher for RM Central School as well as Orchard School. The recommended budget maintains appropriate class sizes in the elementary grades, preserves programming at the middle and high school, and considers anticipated savings on health care. It also minimizes staff cuts, introduces a pilot program to better support trauma affected students, and supports state mandated personalized learning plans at the middle and high school. The budget removes the targeted math and literacy support at the middle school, and does not include funding for the Rebel uniform change.

What’s it Going to Cost You?

This budget results in a residential property tax rate decrease of 1.20 percent, an income sensitized tax rate decrease of 5.15 percent, and a net increase in expenditures of 1.69 percent. The tax impact on the average homeowner ($335,839) would be a $65 decrease annually or a $5.41 monthly decrease, and the average condo owner would see a $44 annual decrease or $3.67 monthly. A tool has recently launched on the district website to calculate income sensitivity adjustments for your individual circumstances. Income sensitivity adjustments kick in if a household makes under $141,000 annually; residents pay education taxes based upon their income.

Contract Negotiations

The school district is currently in negotiations with its three collective bargaining units, one of which is the SBEA (South Burlington Educators Association). Since mediation with the SBEA failed May 15, contracts will not be settled prior to the budget vote, as fact finding is set to begin June 6. At a budget presentation May 24, Superintendent David Young explained that 70 percent of the wage growth in regard to staffing was required in terms of negotiated service plans for students with special needs. Martin LaLonde said one reason that budgets are often passed prior to negotiations being finalized is that the state sets the time frame for when the process can begin; which makes passage of a contract prior to a budget almost impossible unless a long term contract is in place. The district follows a legal process that takes them until the end of the summer. Currently, of the more than 150 teachers’ union contracts in the state, only about 10 have reached settlements, while the majority have passed budgets.

LaLonde noted that a “no” vote on the budget is not of assistance in terms of negotiations. This only equates to more board time being spent trying to get a budget passed rather than focusing on the very intricate process of negotiations and making sure contracts are issued and in place prior to the beginning of the school year.

If This Budget Fails

According to the city charter, voting will continue until a budget is passed; the district does not default to a level funded budget. However, the city has the authority to issue interim tax bills if a budget has not passed by June 30. The city can also levy and collect interim education property taxes adjusted by the city’s CLA (common level of appraisal), but the funds will not be turned over to the school district until a final budget has been approved and a 30-day reconsideration period by the state has passed.

More Information and Where to Vote

There will be a budget information meeting held Monday, June 5 at 7 p.m. at the Tuttle Middle School cafeteria. The full budget presentation can be found at www.sbschools.net/Page/1038. The board also has launched a Facebook page where budget information is posted daily called: SBSDFY2018Budget.

You can register to vote at City Hall Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. through June 6 and online at www/sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters/registration.aspx. Absentee voting can be done via mail or in person at City Hall through June 5 or vote in person June 6 from 7 a.m. To 7 p.m. at Orchard School (District 7-1), Tuttle Middle School (Districts 7-2 and 7-3), and Chamberlin School (District 7-4).

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent