Thursday March 14, 2013
The development of the school budget was not an easy process this year. Cuts to Federal funding translated to a loss of revenue and declining enrollment along with anticipated changes to school choice agreements, resulted in some difficult decisions for the School Board. A tax increase of 2.09% (which was the smallest tax increase compared to area Districts) cuts to academic programs, teacher layoffs, eliminating Assistant Superintendent Winton Goodrich’s position, and increased class sizes at the elementary level were some of the unfortunate budget casualties. As Martin LaLonde, who was re-elected to a three year term, mentioned at the town meeting candidate forum, he would have liked to see more money in the budget such that layoffs were unnecessary. Fellow School Board member, Diane Bugbee who was re-elected to a two year term, echoed that sentiment saying that had more funds been in the budget, the 1:1 laptop program could have been expanded to two grades rather than one.
This was the final year the budget had to be split into two parts. Part A ($42,258,065) passed with 62.28% voting yes. Part B ($728,686) passed with 55.59% voting yes. While the Board is very thankful to the community for their continued support of the school district, they are evaluating data associated with the election, such as, what percentage of voters used absentee ballots as well as the voter turnout in general which came in at 28.04%. Although turnout was greater than the previous election, the Board would like to have seen a higher percentage. School Board Clerk Elizabeth Fitzgerald said that it’s never too early to begin planning for the next budget. To that end, Superintendent David Young thinks it is important to gather feedback from the individuals who voted “no” on the budget. Why they did so and what changes can be made in the future.
The voters re-elected two dedicated school board members who are ready to continue in their roles. Diane Bugbee said, “I look forward to another two year term. I am grateful for the trust and confidence that the voters of South Burlington have placed in me. I am pleased that the voters supported the budget adopted by the Board. I know that as we move forward there are cuts in some areas which will be difficult, and at the same time we will be able to preserve programs which make our school district strong.” Martin LaLonde offered this reaction; “I am very pleased to have the opportunity to serve South Burlington for another three years as a member of the School Board. I thank those who voted for me and those who voted for the school budget. I look forward to continuing the Board’s work with the administration, teachers, and staff to maintain the excellent education our schools provide the community’s students.”