School Board Approves New Budget
Nathan Kakalec | On 31, May 2017
At a meeting on May 10th, 2017, the South Burlington School Board unanimously approved a new budget for the FY-2018. This comes after the two previous iterations of the budget were defeated at the polls in March and April.
The new budget of $49 million is almost $1.3 million dollars less than the original budget, which failed in March. The total cost per equalized pupil will be $15,400 if the budget is passed. While the new budget would be a 4.9% increase over last year’s budget of $47 million, it would result in a 1.2% decreace in taxes for South Burlington residents due to state funding. According to the Board, the new budget maintains class size and preserves most programs at the middle and high school. In addition, it adds back the contingency teacher, which was removed in the April budget. The new FY-18 Budget also doesn’t add any additional spending for the Rebel nickname change to the $47,914 allocated in previous budgets. At the May 10th meeting, Superintendent David Young, the man responsible for drafting the budget, stated, “This particular budget allows the district to move forward,” (Burlington Free Press).
The budget has received mixed reactions from the community. Many have expressed their support for the budget, citing South Burlington’s reputation as one of the top school districts in the state. Others have dissented, saying the Board’s new budget ignores the voice of some members of the community, especially surrounding the Rebel name issue. However, the Board is confident that this new budget will be more appealing to the community than the previous two because of continued cuts. In a statement to VTDigger, School Board Chairman Elizabeth Fitzgerald stated the Board had received “a lot of positive feedback from people” who voted against the previous budgets. (VTDigger)
One group credited with the failure of the budget in March and then again in April is the Rebel Alliance. In the past, the Alliance has been responsible for campaigns against the budget and organizing petitions to put the Rebel name change up to a community vote. On May 10th, shortly before the School Board meeting, Stacey Savage, a spokeswoman for the group, alerted the Board to a potential compromise. The Rebel Alliance agreed to not campaign against the FY-18 budget so long as the Board put the Rebel name petition up to a community vote and tabled talks on the name change until next April. However, at the same meeting, the Board rejected both petitions submitted by members of the Rebel Alliance in April. Due to the timing of the announcement, it is unclear whether or not the Board will support such a compromise.
If the budget fails, the Board has decided that it will adopt the level funded budget. A level funded budget would result in reductions in staff and programs at all levels of the District. Full time equivalent (FTE) hours would be cut across the board. At South Burlington High School, this could mean classes such as Japanese, Honors English 10, AP Calc BC, and Jazz Exploration would be eliminated from the course offerings. In addition, co-curriculars would be eliminated on a case-by-case basis. Plans to purchase new busses and upgrade facilities would also be halted if the budget were level funded. Documents created by the District do not state what would happen to the Rebel name related costs if a level funded budget is adopted.
The FY-18 budget will be put up to vote at a special election on June 6th. The School Board will host an information session for the community on June 5th.