Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: MAUSD seeks input as complex decisions await

As we enter the budget building season, it has become clear that the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) is facing significant financial challenges that will impact us in the next year and beyond. Our school board remains focused on student outcomes, community values and fiscally responsible decisions. However, there is concerning urgency around the trends we are seeing and we think it is important to share these challenges with you.
In building the budget, we start by looking at predictions of increases in costs such as health insurance, wages, and anticipated student needs. We also try to anticipate changes in revenue, which are greatly impacted by student enrollment. All of these factors have an effect on the cost of education in our district.
In the last two years, for example, we have lost 82.98 equalized pupils [“equalized pupils” are a two-year weighted average of students, determined by the state, which spending expectations and penalties are based] which equates to a loss of $1,369,170 in revenue. We are also anticipating a health insurance increase of 12.9 percent. Current projections show that level education spending would increase the cost per equalized pupil by 2.7 percent in FY21 and FY22 and 2.8 percent for FY23.
The MAUSD School Board is grappling with this critical, and complex, question: “How can we improve the education of our students in a sustainable, fiscally responsible way?” We believe that in order to answer this question, we must educate our community about the situation we are facing, and ensure we are seeking their input as we identify a plan for moving forward.
Over the last several months, the Community Engagement Committee of the MAUSD Board has hosted conversations in each of the five towns, as well as with students and staff members. They have gathered feedback about our community’s values in regards to education and our schools. At a Nov. 5 gathering (this letter was submitted to the Independent on Nov. 4), we were slated to discuss those values and how to ensure they are incorporated into future decisions about education in our district, with a focus on facilities. We will also be presenting a “state of the district” that will explain our current and projected financial status and possible paths forward as we plan for our future.
On Nov. 20, we will contemplate different possibilities for the facilities in our district and how we might use our buildings. The input from all of these community meetings will be synthesized and presented at a joint meeting of the board and school leaders in early January, as they review and decide on next steps in the facilities planning process. These next steps will also include opportunities for public input.
In addition to these two upcoming community conversations, on Dec. 10 the school board will be hosting a discussion specifically about the budget. It is an opportunity to ask questions and become more informed about the various drivers impacting our budget and the ways in which this impacts programming, facilities and the tax rate. As a District, we are working hard to create systems and programs that improve outcomes for students and there is so much to be proud of across MAUSD. We hope you will join us for these meetings. Nov. 5 and 20 meetings are at 6 p.m. at Holley Hall in Bristol. Dec. 10 and January meeting time/location to be determined.
Dawn Griswold
Chair Mount Abraham Unified District Board
Monkton

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