Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Tax hikes still hurt Vermonters

Twenty-five years ago I had my moment of “fame” when I took my sheep to town hall as payment for my property taxes and as a protest of the constantly increasing bill. Then and now the major portion is the school tax.
As I reread the newspaper articles from back then I don’t see much change in the conversation around high taxes. Per pupil costs and overall budgets continue to escalate. Buildings continue to deteriorate while previous bonds are not paid off.
As a recently retired school district employee I have had access to many years of details of school budgets. Even as a lay person I can see huge issues with where and how the money is spent and administered. To be shown that our “cost per pupil” is even more than some private schools and colleges is staggering to me.
The reality is that the current level of spending has to be reduced. Yes, staff will have to go. The largest expense in the budgets is salaries and benefits. Yes, extras will have to go. Maybe even charge for busing? Are we maintaining too many buildings? Huge changes in how public schools operate will be difficult to accomplish, but there must be change … and soon. We must start looking outside the box and get creative with solutions that guarantee financial sustainability for our schools and communities. The legislature and the department of education have had far too long to solve this problem.
When I first sent this commentary to some friends they said, “You don’t offer any solutions.” So I thought about it and have this to offer:
Let’s get back to funding the basics of education. I propose that programs that are ancillary to core education be eliminated. Teach the basics of art but eliminate the ceramics, etc. Teach phys ed and health, but make athletics a community function. Laid off teachers and coaches could form their own businesses and collaborations. Many extracurricular classes and programs already abound. When I went to kindergarten in 1956 my parents had to pay for it. When I wanted piano lessons they had to pay.
When the overall tax burden becomes affordable then I say give a discount to those who are still paying full share decades after their kids finished school and to those who never had kids in public school.
There are waves of current conversations around school funding. Let’s have a real and lasting conversation about cost reduction. Consolidation has been thrust upon us with little surety of any financial relief. If it truly was saving us money we would be celebrating, not criticizing.
Alden Harwood
Addison

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