Tuttle Middle School Library, Jan. 9, 2019, 6-7:45 p.m.
Members present: Acting Chair Bridget Burkhardt, Superintendent David Young, Martin LaLonde, Steve Wisloski, and Alex McHenry
Others present: Business Manager Amadee Denton, Director of Operations and Financial Management Gary Marckres, and resident Sheldon Katz
There was one public comment unrelated to the agenda. Resident Sheldon Katz read a 20-minute statement asking the board to reverse its decision to raise the Black Lives Matter Flag for the month of February. Katz argued that because “BLM is a political organization that takes stands on controversial political issues... it is inappropriate for the board on behalf of the entire district and all its students, parents, teachers, and the taxpayers that financially support it to endorse or condemn political organizations.” Katz went on to quote from the Black Lives Matter platform with a particular focus on the State of Israel.
“BLM ‘fight(s) the expanding number of Anti-BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) bills being passed in states around the country’ which, it asserts, ‘harm the movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine,’” Katz read. “The BLM flag therefore represents the view that the State of Israel occupies an area it calls Palestine, that the alleged occupation should be ended, and that the State of Israel should be boycotted, divested, and sanctioned.”
Katz concluded his statements with a request that if the board continues with the move to fly the BLM flag, that they should also fly the flag of the State of Israel to show support for Jews, in addition to holding an assembly “with a representative of the State of Israel government presenting its side of the “occupation” and BDS issue. Flags representing right-to-life and law enforcement groups, among others, should also be displayed and required assemblies conducted for individuals representing those groups.”
After Katz’s statement, Bridget Burkhardt thanked him for his comments and said he could expect a response from the board, but could not give a specific timeframe given the board’s current workload with budget development. Burkhardt explained that the June 2018 decision to fly the flag was duly warned at a public meeting and was a result of a student request. She added that the board felt the decision to fly the BLM flag was in the best interest of the students and that the board must “make correct decisions even when they are potentially controversial.”
At the June 6, 2018, school board meeting before about 20 student advocates, the board unanimously approved the South Burlington High School Student Diversity Union’s request to have the Black Lives Matter flag fly at the high school during Black History month, which occurs annually in February, beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The board had previously heard a presentation from the students at its May 16, 2018 meeting and had warned the item for potential action for the following meeting. By taking this unanimous action, South Burlington joins Essex, Burlington, and Montpelier High Schools, which have also raised the flag.
That concluded the public comment portion of the meeting.
There were no amendments to the agenda.
Announcements: School was canceled Jan. 9 due to inclement weather. The proposed date for the steering committee meeting between the city and school district to present their respective budgets is Jan. 23 at City Hall.
Executive Limitations Policy Monitoring 2.0 Global Executive Constraint was reviewed for a final time and unanimously approved.
Amadee Denton presented the announced tuition rates for FY 2020. Tuition rates must be announced by Jan. 15. The announced rate for grades 7-12 is up 4.8 percent or $684 per student at $15,320. The rate for grades K-6 is $14,888. It is anticipated that there will be 194 tuition students attending the district’s schools in the 2019/2020 school year, 175 at the high school and 19 at the middle school. The tuition rates were unanimously approved.
Young, Denton, and Marckres presented their budget recommendations for FY 2020. Young reviewed what the budget provides for students, an overview of student outcomes such as AP course enrollment and students continuing their education immediately following graduation (80 percent). The proposed budget maintains classroom staffing at FY19 levels and the overall expenditure budget is $2,060,367 (4.15 percent) higher than FY19. The majority of the increase results from existing obligations, not additions to programming. These include benefit increases and salary contingencies, tuition agreements already in place, the 2019 principle bond payment, lease payment obligations, and contracts with vendors for existing services. An increase of 1.35 total full-time equivalent staff is being proposed (.85 percent of the 4.15 percent).
Local revenue is down by $746,154 mainly due to the Act 85 healthcare recapture which resulted in a $468,817 loss of revenue over two fiscal years. In addition, an administrative error was discovered that over-budgeted revenue by $190,000 in FY19. The proposed budget would result in a tax increase of 1.6060 or 3.58 percent. Prior to income sensitivity and based on the Common Level of Appraisal, the residential property tax per $100,000 of assessed value would see an increase of $55. For the average condominium valued at $231,356, this would equate to a $128 increase and for the average home valued at $336,110, the tax increase would be $186.
The board is scheduled to continue fine-tuning the budget at its Feb. 6 meeting, where it is slated for action.