I was one of six community members and taxpayers that attended the school board meeting at Vergennes Union High School last week.
At this meeting, the school board approved a budget for the high school of $8,893,623 which is a 4.9 percent increase from last year. This is the maximum increase under Act 82 that a school budget can be raised in a year without also proposing a lower back-up budget to present to the taxpayers on Town Meeting Day. Particularly interesting is that the budget was barely below the tipping point in which a second budget would be necessary.
Yes, a quality education for our children is important but it also has to be affordable. I think we can have both but not without scrutinizing spending and making appropriate choices. Something has to give.
At this point, the choice of the taxpayers of the Addison N.W. Supervisory Union is to say okay to a 4.9 percent increase or to vote the budget down. Neither is a good option but I would support a "no" vote because of the extremely difficult financial times that we are facing today.
I think the school board can do better at trimming costs and it needs to happen now. I would propose a level-funded budget. The tax and spend days are over and school boards need to be more accountable to the taxpayer.
I am writing in hopes that citizen taxpayers in the different school communities will once again get involved and pay attention to school spending. Next year's budgets have been proposed and most continue to rise. In the tough economic times confronting us, educational spending must be controlled and cannot continue to increase.
Please take the time to look at the school budgets in your town. Attend meetings and ask questions and demand accountability. It is your hard-earned money and you have a right to know how it is being spent. The time is now to make tough spending decisions and a "no" vote may have to happen to accomplish that this year.