Not a good solution
Good schools are not built just by teachers and administrators, students and parents, but by taxpayers who, year after year, reach into their pockets and often sacrifice to support rapidly rising budgets.
Those who spend public money must be good stewards. In tough times, they have even greater responsibility to prioritize spending based on reasoned assessment of what is essential and should be funded, and what, however desirable, is not essential and should await funding when resources are more robust.
That process was not in play at Wednesday’s meeting in Montpelier.
The unpalatable choices for cuts presented in the “Option #1” graphic that was the very first thing seen by attendees surely do not represent the lowest priority, least painful reductions that could have given some small taxpayer relief in a $17 million budget. Do teaching support positions or sports teams with a long school history really fall at the bottom of the priority list, below things like the nearly $7,000 for Ultimate Frisbee? Yet that seems to have survived, while faculty positions in six different departments and two sports teams of long standing were on the block. Why?
In a giddy, self-congratulatory atmosphere, the budget actually increased. Restoration of $3,500 for the debating club, following an emotional plea from a student, did not demonstrate effective management of priorities. We learned that the club had dwindling participation and was currently unfunded but operating. With numbers down and sustainability in question, then regrettably the club does not merit fiscal year 2015 funding.
Faced with a hard choice, the school board took the easy way out. Taxpayers will now have to reach into their pockets to add $3,500 to the “recommended” budget of $17,370,991.
Budget hikes nearing 24 percent in two years are not insignificant. Real increases will vary by household based on property assessments. They will be with us forever because taxes never go down.
That is why, in doing budgets, you go through a process of rigorous prioritization and cut from the bottom of the list to provide needed tax relief while working to reduce the disruption to school programs and the pain to the community.
The school board did not meet this challenge and, in my grade book, gets an “F.”
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