By Sue Anne Stager
About the upcoming vote to spend $36,294,313 in taxes via Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day. Since this represents an increase in taxes of $1,114,120 (not an insignificant amount of money in my opinion), I have to ask a couple of questions:
1) Whatever happened to the bundle of money we were going to save by forming this new district? Originally touted to be, on average, $500 or more on a $200,000 real estate assessment.
a) An automatic 10 percent tax break for joining up early given by the state. I see the 10 percent deduction in the budget, but I don’t think the voters expected that money to be spent before we even got it!
b) Extensive reductions in duplication of services and excess administration cost – I can’t find any indication that any reductions have been made.
c) Thoughtful, serious consideration given to class size and the known issue of reduced student populations, particularly in the smaller Valley elementary schools. Doesn’t seem anybody is willing to deal with this issue either. Fayston: 86 pupils vs. seven teachers. Moretown: 103 vs. seven. Waitsfield: 108 vs. seven. Warren: 138 vs. eight. Of course these numbers do not take into account all the “assistants” in the overcrowded, busting at the seams, difficult working conditions nine to 16 pupils create. I believe in small classrooms, I really do. It just seems to me that the taxpayers are being taken for a ride.
2) We are accepting tuition students from other towns. Is this mandated? Do the other towns and the state cover the entire cost of these students attending schools in this district? Why would our district create a bus route, at our expense, to bring in more students from surrounding towns?
I went to the WWSU website in order to familiarize myself with the proposed budget. Having 15 years of experience on both the Warren Elementary board and the Washington West board, I figured I would need to allow myself some time to go through it all and decide how I felt about it. Imagine my surprise to read everything and come away feeling stunned that our experts thought we really didn’t need to compare last year’s expenditures to the current, or proposed, budgets.
And I left wondering, so just how many tuition students are there? How much tuition is paid and how does it compare to per-pupil costs determined for residential pupils? I also wondered how many prekindergarten pupils exist and what the cost is for those programs districtwide. And just how much do we pay each administrator and the individual teachers? What are the additional financial benefits provided by taxpayers? i.e., how much is medical insurance and how much do teachers contribute? Are there deductibles?
I get how the system works. Everybody asks for everything and then some, in hopes that after the cuts they will get what they really wanted in the first place. The problem is, we are not a large multinational corporation with unlimited funds. We are a bunch of small towns with very limited funds and more and more voters are asking if we need all the things the schools are asking us to pay for.
In my opinion, the answer is no and I will not be supporting this proposed budget increase.
Stager lives in Warren.