Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Input sought on rejected budget

We admit that Town Meeting Day’s budget vote results (Slate Valley school budget defeated) hit us harder than others. Here in Slate Valley, we have seen defeats over the decades, and we have always overcome them. We feel that the budget presented to taxpayers was more than responsible and reasonable, but the taxpayers ultimately did not feel that way. We need to understand why. It represented a substantial tax decrease, from 2% to 10%, and was less than the budget three years ago.

As a district, we have truly embraced the philosophy of Act 46 to contain costs, develop efficiencies, increase opportunities and address long-overdue issues like deferred maintenance.

We are at a crossroads now. We are dealing with increasing mental health issues and societal issues that are spilling over into the school district. The schools provide afterschool care, free breakfast, and lunch, mental health supports, telemedicine, food for families on weekends/vacations, etc. This all comes at a cost. This cost was not part of our budget 10 or even 20 years ago.

We are near the bottom for per-pupil spending in the state and second from the bottom in Rutland County. Contrary to belief, the municipal tax rates drive the tax bills in our area. Fair Haven, for example, has the 2nd highest municipal tax rate in the county and the lowest homestead education tax rate according to the Vermont Department of Taxes in 2021. The issue is not the school tax rate.

As a Slate Valley community, the day has come that we need to decide what learning experiences or outcomes we want for our students. How do we create educational experiences, so we become the jewel of Addison and Rutland counties?

Is it possible we might not have much to vote on if we continue to eliminate positions and defer infrastructure maintenance? What future do we want for Slate Valley?

We invite you to participate in board meetings and our upcoming strategic planning process that will be advertised soon. We need to work together for a shared vision for Slate Valley.

Timothy Smith

Slate Valley Board Chair

Brooke Olsen-Farrell

Slate Valley Superintendent

Glen Cousineau of Orwell

Slate Valley Finance Committee Chair

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