Board grapples with impact of budget proposal
by Mike Eldred
Jan 27, 2017 | 1592 views | 0 0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Phil Scott
Phil Scott
slideshow
WILMINGTON- At their regular meeting Tuesday evening, Twin Valley School Board members pondered the impact of proposed changes to education funding proposed by Gov. Phil Scott in his first budget address hours earlier.

In his budget address, Gov. Scott called on school boards to fund their 2018 school budgets at 2017 levels to stabilize tax rates. He also proposed postponing budget votes until May 23 to give boards time to prepare the level-funded budgets.

Board members were uncertain whether the governor’s level-funding plan included additional changes that would control or stabilize tax rates in Whitingham and Wilmington, or whether they should move forward with their proposed 2018 budget, which is $750,000 lower than their 2017 budget.

“It kind of leaves us hanging,” said board member Kathy Larsen. “If the budget doesn’t pass (in May), we’ve got to work really fast to get another budget out there before the end of June.”

“We’ll probably want to have some parallel efforts in place, if (budget approval) doesn’t look promising,” suggested board member Adam Grinold.

“We may be going to the public several times this spring,” said board member John Doty.

“If we’re being asked to delay the vote by the governor, then I assume that will be communicated in a more official manner than just a budget proposal,” said Grinold. “Should we even proceed with our budget informational meetings?”

Board members were unsure whether to proceed with a vote on their proposed budget, continue to seek additional cuts, or to respond to the governor’s request for a level-funded 2018 budget without guidance on whether there would be additional measures to stabilize the school tax rate at 2017 levels.

“It seems like they have to realize there’s a flaw in this,” said Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd.

Board members eventually decided not to pursue a budget that included additional cuts which had been discussed in executive session at a work session a week earlier. “I wouldn’t vote for what was proposed to get out of the penalty box,” said board member Therese Lounsbury. “That’s not a budget I would put my name to. And say it passes but the governor says ‘Here are some new rules.’ Does that give us the opportunity to look at it again?”

Larsen suggested moving forward with their proposed budget, to be voted on by Australian ballot on Town Meeting day as usual, with the contingency that, if details of the governor’s budget proposal prove to be advantageous to the two towns, the vote could be postponed until May 23 and a level-funded budget could be substituted. Board members agreed.

“I think the board and administration have done their job to reduce this budget by $725,000 and still have the programs we want to have from an educational standpoint. This is what we want our school to have. Whatever plays out in the next couple of months, either from the governor or otherwise, we’ll take it as it comes.”

“And I think we need to send our displeasure to the governor and anyone else who will listen,” added Lounsbury.

Boyd suggested the board request that someone from the Legislature or the Vermont Agency of Education attend the board’s public budget information meetings to answer questions and discuss issues with the public.

“Someone to flog?” asked Grinold

“Well, that may happen,” said Boyd.

The board’s budget information meetings are scheduled for 7 pm, Tuesday, February 28, in Wilmington; and 7 pm, Thursday, March 2, in Whitingham.

In related matters, Boyd reported that he attended a Whitingham Selectboard meeting to discuss the town’s response to Whitingham’s projected homestead school tax increase of 52 cents, despite the school board’s budget cuts.

Boyd said selectboard members voted to include an article on the Town Meeting warning asking voters to raise $100,000 to put into their litigation fund to fight the state over the funding formula. “It was a good conversation,” Boyd said. “The selectboard is very supportive of the (school) board’s work and the situation we’re in with the state. They have concerns about the funding formula, and think it is aligned against us. They said they’re willing to attend our public budget information meetings to support where we’re at with the budget.”

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet


Comment Policy

In an effort to promote reasoned discussion, transparency, and integrity in online commenting, The Deerfield Valley News requires anyone posting comments to identify themselves using their real name. Anonymous commenting will not be allowed. All comments will be subject to approval before posting, and may take up to 24 hours for approval to be granted.

We encourage civil discourse among readers, and ask that they be willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. No personal harassment or hate speech will be tolerated. Please be succinct and to the point. For longer comments, please consider submitting a letter to the editor instead. It will appear in both the print and online editions.

All comments will be reviewed, and we reserve the right to reject, edit or remove any comment for any reason. For questions or to express concerns feel free to contact our office at (802) 464-3388.