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Back To The Drawing Board For 11 School Districts

Voters spoke loud and clear on Town Meeting Day, the proposed school budgets in eleven reporting towns failed.
BURLINGTON, Vt. -  Voters spoke loud and clear on Town Meeting Day, the proposed school budgets in eleven reporting towns failed.

“It’s not as though there is fat to be trimmed,” said Jeanne Collins, Superintendent of Burlington Schools.

Collins says proposed budget was 66 million dollars; an almost 4% increase over last year. That would have pushed property taxes up more than 9%.

“This is what we think the students need and the answer came back ok but we can't afford it,” said Collins.

Collins says like many school budgets across the state  80% is mandated, the other 20% includes social work services, AP classes, or world languages. Programs that Collins says the community values.

“So when I can't touch the 80% that's mandated I have to touch the programs that people really want,” said Collins.

Collins says cuts will likely start with staffing; he same could happen in Milton.

“It’s inevitable, I see personnel cuts on the horizon,” said John Barone Sr., Superintendent of Milton Schools.

Barone says he was disappointed the 26 million dollar budget failed. It was 6% higher than last year; taxes would have gone up by almost 11%.

“We do have a responsibility to look at our spending and curtail our spending,” said Barone.

But it's not just up to the schools; the statewide Homestead Tax Rate will increase property taxes no matter what budget is passed. So both Barone and Collins say that’s something the state might need to re-evaluate.

“Property taxes is the way it's funded right now- but is that the best way? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s definitely a question that should be asked,” said Collins.

“We need to look at un-funded mandates and to stop handing down programs and requirements that are hard to disagree with but the funding winds up falling on the burden of the property tax payer. And that has got to stop,” said Barone.

It will cost the schools money to put another budget up to vote. For Milton that's inevitable.

But Burlington is unique, the school board will have to decide if it wants to put another budget up for vote before June 30th; otherwise the city's charter forces the school to default to last year's budget. And Collins says that budget still includes an 8% increase in property taxes.

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