Thursday January 26, 2017
The South Burlington City Council and School Board, in conjunction with their respective administrative teams, have been hard at work formulating budgets that support their objectives while keeping an eye on cost containment. Both the council and school board have proposed tax increases, but were thoughtful in developing the plans for their additions, reductions, and what items would need to remain at their current level of funding. Within one evening of each other, the two entities unanimously passed their budgets, setting in motion the process of getting information out to the public prior to town meeting day in March.
School District Budget
The school board unanimously passed their revised budget at the January 18 board meeting, but not without significant discussion. In addition to the budget worksheet, Superintendent David Young had presented the board with budget initiatives divided into categories to clearly outline proposed staff changes, project tasks, learning initiatives, academic programming, master planning, and other costs. Martin LaLonde made the motion to approve the revised budget total of $50,565,404, Julie Beatty seconded and the decision was unanimous. Compared to FY ‘17, the tax impact on the average home ($335,839) is an additional $114 or $9.46 per month and the impact on the average condo ($227,647) is $77 or $6.41 per month.
Staffing vs. enrollment trends continues to be a major concern for the board. Elizabeth Fitzgerald noted that staff numbers are up over 11 percent and while there is a 2 percent growth in the number of tuition students, the number of residential students has declined by ½ percent. “These positions tend to become embedded in the budget... it’s difficult to take the budget to the community under these circumstances,” Fitzgerald said.
Bridget Burkhardt agreed that the increases year over year are concerning, but despite that, was disappointed to see the proposal for foreign language at the elementary level cut. Young said that while that item remains a priority, the logistics of how to roll out such a proposal would need more work. Ideally two teachers who travel between the three elementary schools would be added each year.
Martin agreed that while foreign language is important, the board gave the administration direction to develop a budget with the guidance that unless an item was glaringly obvious in terms of need, they should move on to other areas where FTEs are mandated at the state level to support Pre-K, flexible pathways, and PLPs (personalized learning plans). LaLonde also thought it was good that the district is documenting how much it costs to execute these unfunded mandates. While, he too expressed frustration with the trend of increasing FTEs, he noted that the board needs to keep explaining to people why this is happening.
Visit the City section to view the City budget.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent