Education

South Burlington reconsiders $50M school budget Thursday

SOUTH BURLINGTON – South Burlington voters on Thursday will consider a $49,754,590 proposed school budget after a previous spending plan was rejected at March Town Meeting.

The school board adopted a fiscal year 2018 budget last month. The vote to adopt the spending plan was 4 to 1. Board member Bridget Burkhardt voted against the proposal.

The retooled spending plan represents $810,814 worth of reductions from the budget that was rejected on Town Meeting Day, March 7. If the proposed spending plan is approved by voters, the property tax rate is projected to decrease 0.07 percent from fiscal year 2017, according to information on the district’s website.

Reductions in the proposed budget include three anticipated teacher retirements totaling $72,000; $50,000 savings from new health care options; a $55,000 savings in reduction of an administration position, loss of a part-time communications coordinator post at $34,028; cutting additional Career Development Center staff, at $40,000 and removing $5,000 for robotics and maker spaces.

Other items deleted from the budget include a deferral of maintenance projects, shaving off $236,200; moving combined Central Office space to leased space, reducing $75,000 and a $300,000 reduction coming from the Capital Reserve Fund contribution.

Additions include an additional $47,914 earmarked for athletic uniforms needed for competition, stemming from mascot change and installation of an art room air conditioner, running $8,500 at South Burlington High School.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In the meantime, the board issued a press release this week, outlining issues that are dividing board and the South Burlington Educators Association in contract talks.

The current contract expires June 30 and teachers are slated to begin enrolling in one of four new health plans by Nov. 1, according to the statement.

The sticking points between the board and the South Burlington Educators Association cover an array of issues, including teacher contributions for health insurance plans and salaries. The union wants the district to pay 100 percent of teachers’ premiums and cover all of out-of-pocket medical expenses. The union told the board it won’t reconvene for mediation until May 15.

The board and the South Burlington Educators Association could seek the assistance of a mediator to reach an agreement, according to the press release.

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  • Ray Gonda

    Reasons to vote YES on the revised School Budget this Thursday, April 6.

    * The revised budget results in a tax DECREASE for taxpayers. While expenses are up 5.9%, revenue increased 14.8%. The Revised Budget Proposal results in a .07% TAX DECREASE.

    * Our strong school system directly impacts the sale of our homes and our home values. New buyers will be hesitant to invest in a community that does not support its schools.

    * A total of $801,000 was removed from this revised budget without cutting teachers or extracurricular programs. A second failed budget is likely to result in cuts to both.

    * In 2017, additional school staff was added to address unexpected higher enrollment at Central and Orchard schools that resulted in elementary class sizes almost 50% higher than the state average and 25% higher than the maximum class size recommended by greatschools.org. A second failed budget is likely to result in cuts that will affect the quality of a South Burlington school district education.

    * While South Burlington’s schools are regularly ranked among the very best in the state, we spend LESS per pupil than over 100 Vermont school districts. South Burlington’s investment in its schools allows it to attract revenue-producing students from surrounding areas, which allows us to maintain this level of quality at a lower expense. South Burlington’s tax rate change has been virtually flat for the last three years. We can’t expect to cut school funding and continue to attract revenue-producing students.

    * Continuing efforts by a small but vocal group to defund our award-winning schools risk harm to our community’s reputation, schools and businesses. Please stand up for our schools and students with a YES vote.

    • Steve Baker

      Time a teachers contract and school budgets had zero increase to pay and benefits?
      It must be some sort of public school new math, every expense goes up and (wink wink) your taxes won’t go up.
      What percent of today’s budget goes to salary benefits and administration versus the same 20 years ago?
      The argument is always “vote for our CHILDREN”, when the odd truth is each year less and less budget dollars go towards education, it goes to fatten teachers salary benefits retirement and administrative increases.
      Many liberals stand on a street corner and chant “pay your fair share” “pay your fair share” to the productive taxpayers. Why don’t we demand our teachers and administrators pay their fair share of their benefit package like the rest of us Vermonters
      Our education system is nothing more than a social welfare program for liberal elite’s.

      • Ray Gonda

        Turning a budget question into a purely political question. That is very questionable thinking.

        • Steve Baker

          Whats very questionable has been the “Take-my-Ball and go Home” attitude of the Unions.
          You seem to know a lot about the budget process, perhaps you can lay it out for all to see?

        • Jason Brisson

          Questionable? Because budgeting has nothing to do with playing politics… Everyone puts all the money into programs they don’t support, right?!

    • Edward Letourneau

      If they can cut 800K from the budget without harm, then there is gross over spending that was not needed.

      • Ray Gonda

        The savings were mostly deferments of capital spending and maintenance – not overspending.. So try again – since these will be needed to be added in the year after the upcoming fiscal year – not really overspending.

      • James Q West

        Oh, but they did NOT cut 800K. Deferred maintenance and savings is $536k of the $800K! If you use that accounting scheme they could defer all costs till next year and this year would be “free”. They either don’t understand money or they are purposely deceptive or both! Don’t let anyone convince you that deferred maintenance is a savings.

  • Steve Baker

    Let’s hope the taxpayers hold a line for even a greater role back in frivolous spending.
    Maybe VT digger could do research on where the money in the budget goes now as compared to 30 years ago. I believe taxpayers would be shocked at how much of the budget now goes to pay benefits and administrative costs.

  • Gerry Silverstein

    I voted NO on the revised school budget..

    The Burlington Free Press published an article on April 3 detailing the
    position (demands) of the SB teachers union with regard to their new
    contract (current one expires in June). I encourage voters to reflect
    on these “demands” when voting on the revised budget Thursday April 6.
    (A side note: Why was the information below not published by the School Board before the school budget vote?)

    Here are the highlights of the article (which I believe to be accurate but,
    for voters who question the numbers, the article is available
    on-line).

    Union position on healthcare:
    SB School Board/SB residents will pay 100% of healthcare insurance
    premiums AND cover ALL out-of-pocket expenses for all teachers (and
    staff?).

    School Board proposal: SB will contribute $17,300 towards premiums for family
    plan for teachers AND fund a health savings plan. Beginning in 2018,
    there will be 4 new plans union members can choose from. All will offer
    the same benefits as current plans and all will have lower premiums
    then current plans.

    Union salary proposal: 4.75% increase first year, 4.94% increase second year, and 4.97% 3rd year.

    School Board: 1.61% first year, 1.77% second year, 1.75% third year

    I have a great respect for education, but when teachers declare through
    their contract demands that they are superior beings that taxpayers
    should attend to like gods without question, residents must ask
    themselves: “Are they really that much better than me to demand a
    compensation package that I could only dream of?”

    Without question, children deserve a quality education, but teachers need to
    show respect for residents who pay for that education and not look at taxpayers as their own private ATM.

    • Steve Baker

      Why should our Employees get a better deal then the ones paying for the Benefits?

      You certainly touched on the “Hidden” factor in all the negotiations…When was the last time you saw the actual teachers contracts?

    • James Q West

      They aren’t getting a quality education.

  • Ray Gonda

    For enlightenment the teacher’s salaries negotiations are separate entities occurring at differing times that budget consideration. The upshot is that nothing can be done in this budget to modify those teacher contracts, zilch, nada!. Thus, there is no reason ala’ Silverstein’s argument to vote no on this budget. Wrong game – wrong stadium.

    • Steve Baker

      It’s all coming out of the wallets of the (over) Taxedpayers, So it’s all been the same game for years played in same Taxpayer sponsored Stadium.