Joel Cook

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School spending thresholds might undergo “tweaking”

MONTPELIER – Spending thresholds for school budgets might undergo some “tweaking,” but a repeal seems unlikely. Members of the House Education Committee on Wednesday expressed reservations in repealing a provision of the state’s school district merger law intended to curb spending, but were open to making changes to the threshold formula. The committee – which, during the last legislative session crafted Act 46, which seeks to merge school districts with the goals of reducing costs and expanding educational opportunities – took testimony from a host of education experts who spoke in opposition to a provision intended to cap education spending statewide at 2 percent for the next two years. “The provision was put in because of the widespread agreement that property taxes are burdensome to Vermonters,” said Committee Chairman David Sharpe, D-Bristol. “I’ve heard widespread concern that it won’t put downward pressure on property taxes because they (the districts) will be forced to spend above the threshold and will be forced to spend more in property taxes.”

The spending threshold formula looks at a district’s per-pupil spending and compares it to the current fiscal year’s statewide average of $14,096. Continue Reading →

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Education discussion commences

MONTPELIER — Let the education discussion begin. A standing-room-only crowd packed the House Education Committee Room and spilled out into the hallway Wednesday morning for the first day of what will be a session-long debate on what to do about rising property taxes and education costs. “You’re welcome to contact the House Speaker’s Office and request a bigger room,” joked Chairman David Sharpe, D-Bristol, whose committee took testimony from groups representing school boards, superintendents and teachers. Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association, offered testimony that laid out the challenges currently faced in education in Vermont. “You need to be pragmatic and visionary,” said Francis, who recalled the state-wide discussions surrounding the implementation of the current education funding system in 1997. Continue Reading →

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