As concerned citizens who have been following the HUUSD budget closely, we support the board’s proposed budget of $39,751,941. We urge you to vote yes on June 16.
Here are the key reasons we support this budget:
- No configuration changes or unknown future costs: This new budget is slightly lower than the March vote number, but more importantly it was achieved without the controversial plans and unknown future bond costs related to merging our middle schools. Instead, this budget makes difficult but fiscally responsible cuts in other areas of the budget, including staff and professional development expenses as well as central office expenditures.
- Less than 3% increase in expenditures: This budget represents an “expenditure” increase of 2.98% over the previous year’s budget of $38,600,862. We believe this increase is fiscally responsible, and some may even call it austere given that health care costs are increasing by double digits. For perspective, the 2.98% increase is significantly lower than the 4%-plus average increase of districts with passed budgets across the state.
- The small expenditure increase is even inflated by maintenance “spending”: Although the “expenditure” number we vote on has increased by 2.98% (or $1,151,079), that number includes last year’s budget surplus (unspent money) of $1.8 million being “spent” into the maintenance reserve fund (as per what voters approved in March). To boot, the “expenditure” into the maintenance reserve fund is $880,000 more than what was “spent” into that fund last year. If we take out the increase in spending into the maintenance reserve fund, the remaining operating budget is just about flat as compared to the previous year.
- Most importantly, education spending is decreasing: Spending – not expenditures – is the basis of our taxes, so that is the most important number to consider when thinking about our wallets. Spending is expenditures minus revenues. The intricacies of how the maintenance fund is accounted for dictate that it be counted as both revenue and an expense, and because of this our “spending” budgeted for next year is actually $100,000 lower than the FY20 spending number.
Some will say that perhaps we should not “spend” into the maintenance reserve fund next year – that instead we should use at least some of that money to lower our taxes instead. That argument is very compelling. However, if we keep that money in the fund and let the March vote stand, we will have over $2.5 million in “cash” to not only replace/repair the roof at Crossett Brook and do other projected work, but more importantly there will also be enough to replace/repair the roof and HVAC systems at Harwood. Those Harwood projects are the two critical infrastructure issues that were creating the direst concern and were compelling bond conversations for the past few years. In essence, this large maintenance fund could help us delay, or possibly avoid completely, a large bond.
There are a lot of unknowns about the future of our taxes across the state and the country right now. Some may say that our district should cut education spending even further, but we believe that in this time of great change, our staff and their relationships with students are exactly what we need to maintain. There are already indications that the federal government and the Vermont Legislature are thinking along the same lines; they, too, want to protect our kids’ futures and not put more financial burden on our schools on top of the myriad pressures they are already seeing in these unprecedented times.
Public education is about growing young minds and bodies and giving everyone a fair shake at a bright future no matter their background. This important work benefits all of us, whether we have kids in our local schools or not. It matters not what town the students are from ... for they are all our future. People, not computers or buildings, will always be at the center of the work of public education, and we need to support them, even in – perhaps especially in – this time of great uncertainty. Please continue to voice your opinion through community dialogue and, most importantly, by voting. Request your ballot by mail today.
Bennett lives in Waitsfield, Vermont, Hazard lives in Moretown, Henchen lives in Moretown, McCracken lives in Waterbury; Mittler lives in Warren, Wargo lives in Fayston. (Hazard, McCracken and Wargo are former HUUSD board members.)