Montpelier votes on contentious school budget

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(Host) In Montpelier, officials are expecting a close vote on their school budget. The school board is proposing a level-funded budget for next year, but it will require a nearly 10% increase in the city’s local tax rate to finance the budget.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The situation facing Montpelier is similar to many communities across the state. A variety of factors, including the appraisal provisions of Act 60 and a declining student enrollment, are pushing tax rates much higher than the actual increases in the school budget.

While many local school boards are proposing small increases to their budget, it will often take a double-digit tax rate increase to pay for that budget. This problem is even worse in towns where property values have increased significantly over the last few years.

In Montpelier, opponents of the tax increase have taken out full page ads in the local newspaper to encourage voters to defeat the school budget. While some voters expressed support for the school budget this afternoon – others did not:

“I voted in favor of the budget because I felt that they had made a good faith effort to keep costs down by level funding. I think the problem is with the formula for the support for aid to education.”

“I voted no. It seems like everybody’s always asking for more money and they already got a lot. So maybe it’s time to find out, run things a little more efficiently and smoother. It doesn’t take money to educate people, it takes other things besides just money.”

“I voted in favor of the school budget. I have a really strong commitment to education in Vermont. It is extremely unusual in the quality of education that it provides to its children and the Montpelier school system is an exceptional one, and it needs to have the opportunity to continue to grow on behalf of all the children in the region and to set the pace.”

“I voted in favor of it. I’m actually living up in Burlington right now and I see the trouble they have every six months almost with their budget. And I think it’s ridiculous. I think the education is one thing we really have to be behind around here.”

(Kinzel) Polls in Montpelier, as with all towns using an Australian ballot, will remain open until 7:00 p.m. Tuesday evening.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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