On Tuesday, March 6th, voters will be asked to support a school budget that includes a 0.8% per pupil spending increase set by our local school board. This small amount will increase the $85 million school budget by just $469,000.
The total tax increase, however, is estimated to be 7.99%. Part of our educational taxes are set by the state legislature each year, often in June long after local budgets have been voted up or down. This year, that portion, called the base tax rate, is estimated to be 7%.
(Confused? Visit our FAQ page to understand more about how school financing works in Vermont.)
The base tax rate is set in Montpelier by our state legislators and is out of the control of the local school board. Furthermore, the final rate is often not set until June, and often decreases as tax payers push legislators to bring the base rate down.
If you are frustrated by the size of this year’s tax increase, we are too. Our school board has cut over $5 million in funding over the past few years in an effort to keep taxes down, and this year added further cuts in order to keep the increase as low as possible.
We, the Burlington Friends of Education, ask you to vote YES on the latest budget to keep more cuts from hurting our kids—and to push your state legislators and the governor to lower the base tax rate and explore ways to more sustainably finance our schools.
So, now you want to know: How will this affect you as a taxpayer?
According to the school district’s budget proposal, the tax bill for an income-sensitive taxpayer would increase by .05%—about $24 if your household income is $50,000.
If you are not an income sensitive taxpayer, it is estimated that your education property tax will increase by 2.5% (or $354 on a house assessed at $250,000).
There is no question that the past several years have been challenging on many fronts when it comes to education funding—both in Vermont and in our own city.
Despite those challenges, we have some dedicated teachers, staff, administrators, parents, community members, and students, who give us plenty to celebrate, including:
- High graduation and college placement rates;
- Innovative approaches to use of technology in the classrooms;
- Partnership for Change;
- Nationally recognized magnet school successes in achievement and equity;
- Low administrative overhead when compared countywide; and,
- Meeting the new world challenges of equity, diversity, and accessibility.
It’s also clear that our district continues to be a strong value for our public investment, including:
- Lower per-pupil spending than similar-size districts;
- Average teacher salaries when compared countywide;
- Larger classroom sizes than surrounding schools, and above the statewide average.
So, on March 6: Vote YES for vibrant, healthy, flourishing schools for our children.