Symington asks for local school budget increase review

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(Host) House Speaker Gaye Symington says it’s critical for lawmakers to address the factors driving local school budgets up before initiating a discussion about ways to change educational tax policies.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Symington said she’s asked the House Education committee to conduct a thorough review of the reasons why many local school budgets have increased more than 6% in each of the past few years:

(Symington) “What are we asking our schools to do? Are we delivering those services in the most cost effective way we can and with the best outcomes that we can expect? And how could we do a better job of delivering those services and getting the quality results that we all want but reining in the pace at which the costs are increasing? We will make no progress unless that’s the fundamental starting point for this discussion.”

(Host) When it does come time to discuss tax policies, Symington says she’d like to see the House implement a system where more Vermonters would pay their school taxes based on their income and not the value of their property.

And the Speaker says it’s important to link any kind of supplemental income tax funding mechanism to a town’s school spending level:

(Symington) “I think it’s appropriate to not simply increase the income tax structure that we currently have in sort of a flat tax mechanism. I think that we need to use the measure of wealth of a household income and make sure that the more you spend in your schools, the more you’re paying. There needs to be a link, a direct link between spending decisions at the local level and what people are paying in taxes.”

(Host) Symington says she’d also like to study proposals to discourage individual towns from adopting per student spending levels that significantly exceed the statewide average.

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