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School Budget Info & the Impact of Act 46

School Budget Info & the Impact of Act 46

by Lindsey Cox

There has been a lot in the news about Act 46 as it relates to education spending,

funding, and governance. The spending caps have created challenges for most districts

in our state. Even with the recently passed amendment that increases the cap by .9%,

many districts are struggling to meet contractual obligations and stay within the caps

without having to cut personnel or programs. That is not the case in Colchester due to

our diligent cost containment, consistent “rightsizing”

strategies, efforts in taking

advantage of cost efficiencies, and last year’s adoption of a universal preK

system.

The legislated Allowable Growth Percentage (AGP) in Act 46 limits school district

spending for the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Budget. Basically, school districts were given

an AGP for FY17 in the range of 05.5%

based on the previous year’s equalized per

pupil spending. According to the Agency of Education, one of the highest spending

districts in the state, Weybridge, had an AGP of 0% but already spends $19,189 per

equalized pupil, while Colchester has a 2.35% AGP and spent $13,535 per equalized

pupil in 201516.

So, Weybridge spends over $5000 more per pupil than we spend here

in Colchester. This demonstrates the exceptional job we have done of keeping our

costs low while providing a high quality education for our students. This year’s

proposed budget, which includes an equalized per pupil spending rate of $13,297.47,

will result in a decrease of about .04 cents to our homestead/residential tax this year.

Controlling school district spending is just one of the motivations for the legislation.

Another foundational tenet of Act 46 is that the cost of schools has gone up while the

student population has gone down. According to Act 46: Vermont’s kindergarten

through grade 12 student population has declined from 103,000 in fiscal year 1997 to

78,300 in fiscal year 2015 while the number of school related personnel has not

decreased in proportionally. But this has not been the case in Colchester. Our

enrollment has stayed relatively consistent.

School funding is an important issue for Colchester residents, but equally as important

is the quality and type of education we provide our students. Research and best

practice also tells us that the education we give Colchester students needs to be

personalized to fit each learner, learnerdriven

to let kids own their learning,

techenabled

to leverage technologies that work, and applied to let kids learn by doing.

We are educating the whole child and that is why you will see another bond item on

your ballot in March. After completing the new high school science center under

budget, we are asking for the remaining $730,000 to be reallocated to update the CHS

Theatre. This is a much needed renovation that will increase our ability to provide a

robust arts program to our students. It will also allow us to engage with and host our

community.

We have a lot to be proud of here in Colchester: a high quality education delivered in a

cost effective manner, low per pupil spending, care for the whole child as evidenced

through our emphasis on academic and extracurricular aspects of students’ education,

and a proven, strong leader in our new superintendent, Amy Minor, to name a few.

Please come out to show your support for our schools on town meeting day. A yes vote

for the school budget and theatre renovations will help ensure a prosperous future for

our entire community.