Friday February 06, 2015
Elizabeth Fitzgerald has served on the South Burlington School Board for the past nine years and has announced her candidacy for re-election on March 3, 2015. As the delivery of public education faces mounting challenges at the state and local levels, she believes that continuity of representation on the board best serves our community.
Throughout the state we have declining enrollments, fewer taxpayers coupled with rising taxes, and unequal educational opportunities and outcomes. So how does South Burlington continue to provide a quality education that prepares our students for their next step at a cost that taxpayers are able and willing to pay? Fitzgerald and the board are working at both the state and local levels to try to meet the challenges faced in continuing to sustain the community’s excellence in education. She highlights that the school board has been proactive with legislators. It has published and broadly disseminated a position paper that outlines both shorter term legislative proposals to reduce the tax burden as well as suggestions for longer range educational reform initiatives. Further, the board successfully negotiated multi-year employment contracts that represent lower increases than neighboring districts in Chittenden County and that have engaged employees in sharing a greater portion of healthcare benefit expenses. During negotiations, the board introduced an innovative healthcare plan option that has prompted state-wide conversations about opportunities to provide quality benefits at a reduced cost to employees and taxpayers. In addition, Fitzgerald holds a seat on the Vermont Educators Healthcare Initiative, which provides benefits to teachers and staff, where she hopes to continue to represent the best interests of all stakeholders. Finally, the board has been actively engaged with the city council, particularly in the Master Planning/Visioning work, which she expects will result in recommendations that would both enhance learning opportunities and better manage property tax increases.
Fitzgerald believes that South Burlington is on the right track with these accomplishments and initiatives. She says that the budget that the board has approved for consideration by the voters will allow the district to continue to prepare students for their next step at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
So, what’s the bottom line this year? The board is recommending a budget of $45,747,228. This would mean a 1.62 % increase in the residential tax rate over FY 2015. The residential property tax impact before income sensitivity per $100,000 of homestead value would be a modest increase over FY15 of only $27.
Fitzgerald commends her colleagues for working tirelessly as stewards for the community’s resources in providing a quality public education to almost 2,400 students each year. She looks forward to being part of the team who will work to define the future of public education in South Burlington.