Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: MAUSD budget merits support

Please support education for our children in Bristol, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro by voting on June 11 for the new, proposed budget of the Mt. Abraham Unified School District. So far the MAUSD budget has avoided significant reductions in education programs, and in teaching for students. If the budget fails again, there is a real worry that students’ education will suffer.

Many in our community are very concerned about our property taxes, with good reason, but after many weeks of work the new proposed budget is at a reasonable place fiscally, in my opinion. I say this as someone who has had my fair share of criticism of the district over the years. Between the March town meeting and now, total expenses in the proposed budget have been reduced by $1.6 million. The new budget proposes education spending that is basically flat: $28,090,370 last year vs. $28,385,860 next year. Per pupil spending is actually decreasing by 7.65%: $15,512.85 last year vs. $14,326.45 next year.

One can sense from the recent statements of the newly reconstituted board that they will use the cost-saving options in the Levenson Report to guide their work in making budget decisions in the coming months. Not all savings options may be viable, and we can debate which options should be implemented, but I believe the community can expect those options will be seriously considered.

Education property taxes are causing much anguish in our community. How can property taxes continue to increase when spending is decreasing or not increasing at the same rate? It is now crystal clear that communities have no meaningful control over property taxes, no matter what spending decisions are made locally. Montpelier has created this mess. Only Montpelier can fix it.

Voting down the budget again may seem to be sending a message to Montpelier, but (1) realistically, “sending a message” at this stage of the budget approval process will not result in significantly lower taxes for our community this year, and (2) in the meantime student education may suffer in ways we do not even know yet. This is not an exaggeration, or a “scare tactic.” At some point the budget cannot be further reduced without real consequences for student education.

Please vote for the new proposed MAUSD budget on June 11.

Herb Olson

Starksboro

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