In recent weeks, Vermont School boards have been putting together the budgets they’ll submit to voters next year. This time around, though they were asked by the state to cut spending by an average of more than 2 percent. The cuts were needed to save $23 million as part of the Challenges for Change effort to close the overall state budget gap. But the results fell far short. Statewide, schools appeared to have made just over $4 million in cuts – far short of the $23 million.
Now the schools have a reprieve. Yesterday, Governor elect Peter Shumlin announced $19 million in federal stimulus money will go to the schools – which basically zeros out the needed cuts. But Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca says school districts will still face difficult budget decisions next year. And he suggests that, with student enrollment decreasing by 1 1/2% to 2% each year, districts should look at Act 153, the voluntary merger bill.
According to Laura Soares who chairs the Randolph Elementary School Board, this year’s proposed budget cuts would have meant no enrichment activities, a low technology budget and reduced support staff for her district.
Listen to Steve Zind’s interview on school budgets and mergers.