On Tuesday, March 7th voters will be asked to support a school budget increase (the first in two years) as well as a long overdue infrastructure bond to improve and update some of our aging buildings.
The Burlington Friends of Education are asking Burlington voters to Vote YES on the proposed budget and YES to the infrastructure bond. Both are needed to keep our commitment to educate our city’s schoolchildren.
Similar to the city’s recently approved bond (in November) to fix ailing and aging infrastructure, it makes sense for the district to bond separately for substantive upgrades and improvements. In fact, it’s pretty routine for capital budgets to be voted on separately from operating budgets in Vermont towns and cities.
The proposed $85.5 million FY ’18 general fund budget includes $100,000 in debt service repayment for the $19 million bond. In developing the budget, the district included the debt service payment for FY ’18 so the funds would be available for that expense if the bond was approved. Therefore, the approval of the bond will not add any additional expense to the FY ’18 budget.
So, now you want to know: How will this affect your wallet? Simple.
Burlington homeowners with household incomes of $141,000 per year (or less) have their property taxes capped based on income. These are called “income sensitive” taxpayers, and include many city homeowners. According to the school district’s budget proposal, the average income sensitive taxpayer’s property tax bill will decrease by an average of 2.4% this coming year as a result of the proposed school budget.
If you are not an income sensitive taxpayer, it is estimated that your education property tax will increase by 5.25% (or $210 on a hypothetical house worth $231,000). These investments we make today, will pay off later on for not only Burlington, but society at large. We all know 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 7: Vote YES for vibrant, healthy, flourishing schools for our children.