Opinion: Starksboro asks for Act 46 change

Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the leaders of the Vermont Senate and Vermont House of Representatives.
I am writing to you today on behalf of the Starksboro Elementary School Board. At our monthly meeting last night our board voted unanimously in favor of a motion to request that you rescind the per-pupil threshold amounts that the Legislature passed in conjunction with Act 46 last June.
Our board, our school and our supervisory union have worked very hard over the last few years to honor and implement the educational directives that have issued from the Legislature. We have consolidated our food service, transportation services, facilities management, IT and special education into our supervisory union, the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union. And this fall we have embraced the charge contained in Act 46 and come together to create an Act 46 Study Committee that has met twice already. Though opinions are diverse within our SU regarding the wisdom and ultimate effect of Act 46, we are determined to promote a robust public discussion of how our governance structures might be improved to best meet the educational needs of the students in our district and our shared SU in a way that is equitable, striving continuously towards excellence, and financially sustainable.
The per-pupil threshold amounts or caps currently mandated by the Legislature will thwart the progress of our district and SU towards these goals. For Robinson Elementary School we are looking at a spending cap of 1.56 percent. Preliminary estimates from our business office have given our board a maximum increase of $6,785 for next year’s budget. The predicted VEHI Health Insurance increase will cost our district around $12,000. To stay below the threshold the Legislature has mandated, we will need to reduce educational opportunities and postpone needed repairs to the building that has been entrusted to us. The choices available to us as we create next year’s budget are to either penalize our students or the taxpayers in our district. Either way our school, which thrives on the active support of the Starksboro community, will be diminished, and our long-term costs will be increased. We ask that the General Assembly take action quickly to repeal the allowable spending thresholds contained in Act 46.
Thank you for your consideration.
Louis duPont
Chair, Starksboro Elementary School Board

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