School Budgets Fare Well In Town Meeting Votes
03/07/12 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel  Download MP3
(Host) The vast majority of local school budgets were approved on Town Meeting Day.
Officials say voters backed the budgets because school boards did a good job explaining the need to increase spending this year.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) On Town Meeting Day, 246 school budgets were presented to voters throughout the state. 236 were approved, 3 were approved with changes and just 7 were defeated. In an average year, roughly 15 school budgets are rejected.
This year the average budget increased just under 3 percent and this comes after two years of being level funded. Steve Dale is the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association. He's very pleased with the overall results.
(Dale) "School boards work hard on these issues from October till January trying to find the right balance of making sure that we're delivering quality education and being sensitive to the ability of the communities to pay and when most budgets are passed on Town Meeting day it's very reaffirming."
(Kinzel) After looking at the Town Meeting results, Governor Peter Shumlin said he hoped local voters understand the impact of approving higher budgets.
(Shumlin) "Let me be clear. If you choose to increase spending at your Town Meeting, your property taxes will go up. If you level fund spending your property taxes won't...Burlington increased their bill by 10.9 percent - I believe their property taxes will go up."
(Kinzel) Dale says local voters do understand this connection.
(Dale) "Particular communities have particular needs at particular times and ... they were able to put those issues before the voters and it's up to local voters to make the decision about whether the case has been made for those kinds of increases."
(Kinzel) A number of communities are looking at plans to consolidate their smaller schools. Dale says he supports these efforts as long as they're voluntary and not mandated by the Legislature.
For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier