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By Jim Parker
I would like to correct an error reported by The Valley Reporter in the Town Meeting Day review in last week's edition.
It was reported that the Warren Elementary School budget of $1,819,313 was approved by 625 voters of the 1,364 "regular voters" and 81 "absentee" voters. Since the school budget is voted only by those who attend the school board portion of town meeting, the budget was actually approved, as dismal as this is, by 43 yeas and no nays, out of the 1,364 regular voters and 81 "absentee" voters. So the largest single budget item in the town of Warren was approved by 43 voters out of 1,445.
Regarding the tripling effect of Act 60/68.
Those 43 people who were able to attend the Warren Elementary school budget meeting were able to question a line item in the budget that was in the amount of $16,000 from the Green Mountain Fund. This $16,000 is available to the town as a grant, for lack of better word, and has been re-directed by the select board to the Warren School to be applied to the budget. This has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. Even before Act 60.
The interesting thing about this came about when it was questioned, as to why this money could not be used for other town expenses or maybe to purchase land for affordable housing. The school board responded by explaining that since for every dollar that is sent to the state from Warren to the education fund, only 35 percent or 35 cents will be returned to Warren to fund education here, the $16,000 is actually worth $48,000 because it is $16,000 that does not have to be raised in taxes to fund education locally, so it escapes the tripling effect of our property taxes. In other words, if we asked the state for $16,000 in the budget, we would have to raise $48,000 in taxes to send there first, only to get one-third retuned to us.
So it would be fair to say that, for every dollar of education spending in Warren, we have to raise $3 in property taxes. For every dollar that is donated from some source, $3 does not have to be raised in taxes.
Based on the school board's explanation of this, we should be able to reduce our property taxes by two-thirds if we developed a private school and escaped this tripling effect of the dubious funding system called Act 60/68.
If you think this is confusing then try understanding the equalized pupil formula of Act 60/68.
This is one of many examples that demonstrate the lack of transparency in this funding system.
Until there is more participation by voters, we have no more chance of controlling the rise in spending than a snowball in Hades.
Jim Parker lives in Warren.