Tax impact outlined for $210 million South Burlington school upgrade

South Burlington High School
The South Burlington High School would be replaced as part of a $210 million upgrade.

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Residents would see a sizable tax increase should voters approve a bond in March to fund a new $209.6 million combined high school and middle school.

School district officials said Thursday a $350,000 homeowner without income sensitivity would see an average tax increase of $1,500 per year over the 32 year life of the bond. Those with household incomes of less than $136,500, about half of those who live in South Burlington, would qualify for a reduction.

The median household income in South Burlington is $66,000, and someone with a household income of $70,000 would see an average tax increase of $438. See the district spreadsheet here showing how residents can expect to pay in taxes. 

School Board Clerk Bridget Burkhardt said the tax figures incorporate all principal and interest payments, which are estimated to total $345 million over 32 years. 

The district is working with cost estimators to finalize budget plans ahead of the school’s board vote 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. If the board approves the bond, it will be placed on the March Town Meeting ballot. 

The estimates don’t take into account any changes to South Burlington’s real estate grand list, which Burkhardt said is not realistic because of planned residential developments across the city and an expected population growth over the next several years. 

“We tried where we could to be very conservative,” she said at a press conference in the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Library.

Both schools have outdated infrastructure and overcrowded classrooms, and don’t meet accessibility requirements. 

Cost and tax estimates came after years of planning. The school board unanimously approved holding a vote to build a new combined school in June after weighing options including whether to renovate existing buildings.

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“This option allows the district to continue to provide the quality public education our citizens value, to position our programming for the next 50 to 60 years, all while minimizing any disruption for students and staff during this transition,” School Board Chair Elizabeth Fitzgerald said Thursday.

South Burlington High School Principal Patrick Burke said the current buildings don’t allow students to work together and that makes it difficult for teachers to share resources.

“Our middle and high school design is unfortunately conducive to isolation and division,” Burke said.

The new configuration will have separate entrances, classrooms and community spaces, but share infrastructure, a kitchen and a corridor which will join the two schools together to share resources as they already do.

“There’ll be no more middle schoolers crossing a parking lot in their shorts in the middle of winter with their band instruments,” Burkhardt added.

The current plan calls for a 405,000-square-foot combined school — an overall increase of about 100,000 square feet. A separate recreation center for school sports with an indoor 200 meter competition track will also be built.

The new buildings are planned to be erected where the schools’ baseball and football fields are currently located.

Dore and Whittier architectural firm has been working with the district on the project. The plans call for the construction of the new school to begin in the summer of 2021 and would be completed in 2024. 

The current schools, Tuttle Middle School and SBHS, will be demolished, and roadways, parking lots and sports fields will replace the buildings by 2025.

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Jay Eshelman

And on our horizon? BILL AS INTRODUCED H.209 2019

Subject: Education; school construction; capital needs assessment Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill proposes to: (1) require the Agency of Education to oversee and hire a consultant to conduct periodic capital needs assessments of State school buildings, and (2) end the period of suspension of State aid for school construction projects beginning with consolidation projects.

Anyone who thinks South Burlington residents are the only ones to see ‘a sizable tax increase’ better think again. While they claim to be doing this ‘for the children’, the State education establishment might as well be building great pyramids to honor themselves.

Robert Skiff

The building will create an increase in taxes across all Vermont. Maybe it is time for citizens in Vermont to realize that the goal of equity empty promise.used to gain votes. Where is the revolt?

Laura Stone

Anyone remember how the Big Dig went?

edward letourneau

Everyone in Vt will pay for their school. Not just Burlington. This state desperately needs to change the school tax to one where the state collects and distributes an amount equal to the national average for per student spending. that provides equity — and if a local district wants to spend more, they have to take themselves for it.

Gerry Silverstein

Please stop quoting the figure for the new school and athletic facility as $209.6 million. That is only the physical cost of the building. Projected interest associated with the construction bonds raise total cost to $345.6 million dollars and that could increase depending on how the bonds are rated by rating agencies if bonds approved (hopefully not)
Cost of project PER enrolled middle and high school student: $234,215 dollars!
Income sensitivity education tax reduction projections by School Board and School District does NOT appear to take into account the $5600 “cap” on State “support”.
Over the 32 year life of the construction bonds an unknown but likely very significant number of residents will exceed the cap and begin paying 100% of education tax above cap.
Many assertions by SB School Board and School District do not stand up to close scrutiny.
Majority of School Board members have NO teaching experience. None.
An unfolding disaster of monumental proportions.

Don White

Burlingt0n and South Burlington are attempting to build new schools for 1/2 billion dollars including interest paid on bonds? Let me write that number out, 500,000,000.00. what is the total budget to operate all of Vt schools?

Karen Ryder

As a South Burlington senior citizen on a fixed income, I have to question the need for these schools. Many children and teens all over Vermont attend schools of this age. I refuse to believe, given the need to demolish the current schools and forgo the use of playing fields for 2-3 years, that this is the wisest plan for SB school children. Certainly an addition and some renovations could take care of most of the issues presented by the School Board. New taxes are unpredictable given the reappraisal currently in process and without finality until the 2021 tax bills arrive. Surely, this new proposal is not the only answer, if indeed, we have a problem.

Mark Lundie

Mixing middle schoolers and high schoolers is not a good idea. The little guys will be bullied and the girls preyed on by the older kids. Its just the way it is.

Steve Schmidt

Hopefully all this money being proposed for facilities in South Burlington will result in students being educated well enough to avoid buying homes in South Burlington.

Jenny Kingsbury

Enrollments are in decline, and yet school districts keep pitching these massive and costly projects. It’s just absurd.

Mark Aubel

It’s very surprising that voters in SB are not showing up at school board meetings and screaming about this proposal. The price tag is almost unbelievable, and the argument that goes something like “if you make less than blah-blah-blah you’ll only pay $XXX” is always infuriating.

Ken Edwards

I can’t seem to find the spreadsheet showing how much this is going to cost the homeowners who don’t live in South Burlington.

Jim Powers

As a relatively new South Burlington resident (with a child living in Shelburne, attending CVU), all I seem to hear from parents is how amazing SB schools are, some even proclaiming the best in the state(!), while looking down their collective noses at neighboring districts. If that’s the case, I applaud their ability to muddle through and overcome the challenges of enduring such horrific conditions and still come out on top. I’d like to see SB schools continue to succeed in the face of adversity and allow me to maintain some semblance of a middle-class lifestyle. Hooray to SB schools for being so incredible. It sounds like they’re right where they need to be, without digging deeper into my wallet.


….let’s compare, 17 million for the new “affordable” residence on Market Street just opened vs. 210 million ( just a starting point) for the new education complex. Something’s wrong.

Martin Dole

Really might it be cheaper to build a new school? Has the attendance dropped at the school? Will this money make sense to spend?

Voity Michael

Chittenden county should have 1 school district. Eliminate all the over inflated superintendent salaries, eliminate duplicate administrative procedures. Combine teaching forces to actually teach our kids something. Passing the buck and blaming the building is not the answer. A good teacher could operate out of cow barn,

gene beaudoin

We thought about moving to South Burlington but that’s on hold. You might want to frame this discussion in terms of cost per pupil. $209,000,000 and about 1,500 students is about $139,000 per pupil. A few years back I was working in Massachusetts and Newtonville, MA built a new school for $108,000 per pupil, dubbed the most expensive school in the United States. Their population is about 90,000 (SB is about 19,000) with a median household income of $133,000 which about twice that of South Burlington. The average new high school in the US is $45,000 per pupil.

Henry Follet

If each teacher made $60,000 dollars a year. 210 million is 3,500 years worth of salaries. 345 million ( the interest ) is 5,700 years worth of teachers salaries. You should concentrate on better educated students, kids who cannot afford lunch, and college scholarships for families who cannot afford it. I’ll never put my kids Into a south Burlington school system with such misguided principles and money mismanagement.

Go 49ers!


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