Education Op/Ed

Editorial: SVUUSD faces double jeopardy


Residents of the Slate Valley Unified Union School District, which serves Orwell and the northwestern part of Rutland County, face tough sledding in getting its school budget passed on a third attempt next Thursday, May 9. Residents rejected the first budget, 1468-1,004, and the second attempt, 947-544.

At issue is a tight budget that’s up by $2.8 million or about 10% over the prior year, but with per pupil spending that is far below the state average. Based on the latest state aid data, the proposed $30.8 million budget for SVUUSD allocates $11,298.83 per weighted pupil. That’s actually a fraction less than current spending, but more importantly, it pales against the state average of $13,294, or of its neighboring districts: Otter Valley spends $12,465 per weighted pupil; Addison Central spends $16,099; Addison Northwest spends $15,306 and Rutland Town, $13,666.

That information informs SVUUSD taxpayers that district school boards have held spending to a minimum throughout the years. To taxpayers intent on shaving pennies, that’s good news. But it also means there’s little excess to trim.

Moreover, demanding the local school board cut its budget even further won’t do much to reduce their tax rates.

“It’s a statewide funding system,” SVUUSD Supt. Brooke Olsen-Farrell explained in a story in today’s Addison Independent. “So just to vote down our budget and say we need to cut, is really not going to save you on your tax rate… It’s challenging because people just don’t understand that, and are just angry about taxes as a whole.”

We understand taxpayers’ frustration, and it’s widespread. Otter Valley defeated its budget for the second time on Tuesday, and Mount Abe’s district rejected theirs a few weeks prior. And even as the state Legislature tries to concoct a plan to lessen the burden, it’s not likely to craft a satisfactory answer this year. 

Solutions aren’t easy, but we do know there is double jeopardy in slashing local budgets: district taxes are not lowered significantly, even as local students are disproportionately hurt. For now, the best strategy is to pass local budgets that are frugal, but viable, and work for bigger change in Montpelier.

Angelo Lynn

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