I am writing to request your support of the Springfield School District 2023 budget. The school board and budget committee spent several meetings reviewing the capital and operating budgets, asking questions, having discussions, and unanimously approving the school budget sent to voters.
The warning article for the budget reads: Shall the voters of the Springfield Town School District approve the School Board to spend THIRTY TWO MILLION, NINE HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE and 00/100 DOLLARS ($32,997,951.00), which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year. It is estimated that this proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $19,288 per pupil. This projected spending per equalized pupil is 5.75% higher than spending for the current year.
At first glance this number is always a shock to me year after year. I have been on the school board for four years now and my gut reaction is that this is a heck of a lot of money. Why is it so much? When you dig into the budget there are two buckets. The first are the fixed operating costs. These include heat, electricity, telephone, insurance, etc. There is limited control over these numbers without closure of a building or other drastic measures. The second bucket, and our largest, is labor cost. Labor cost includes employee wages and their benefits. The insurance benefits are negotiated at the state level and not at the local level. So there are two competing questions we have as a school board. How do we reduce the budget while simultaneously trying to improve test scores and school rating? That, of course, is the thirty-three million dollar question. If we cut teachers and increase class sizes, research shows this will have an adverse effect on test scores. As a school board, we value education and improving the school ratings. When we improve school ratings, more people will consider moving to Springfield and the tax base will increase. This will lead to decreased taxes.
Of the above stated number, roughly seven point nine million dollars ($7.9 million) will be raised through local taxes. The other money comes from taxes raised in the State of Vermont. These taxes will be spent on other areas of the state if not spent in Springfield. The Vermont State Education fund is then comprised of: 100% of your sales and use tax, 33% of your gas tax, 33% of your diesel tax, 25% of your meals and room tax, and 100% of your lottery purchases. Then, for every dollar that you pay out of pocket in school tax, the State will give the Springfield schools an additional $3. This is a value for our town as we are not property tax rich.
This past year (FY21), mainly due to Covid, we ended with a two point one million dollar ($2.1 million) surplus. One million dollars ($1 million) of this surplus will be applied to the next budget to lower the local school tax rate. This benefits all community members. The school board, in conjunction with school administrators, is asking the community to vote on using the remaining surplus in the following manner. First we are asking that four hundred thousand ($400,000) of this be contributed to operating expense reserve. This will allow the school board to use this money in future budget cycles to lower tax rates when unexpected operating costs arise. This will help to ensure that we do not have sharp increases in our school tax rate as a town. The second article will ask the voters to consider using seven hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) for capital improvements. The school board approved a capital improvement plan for the next five years that is available on the district website. Our schools are in need of repair and this fund will help us to make those improvements as needed.
I ask that you consider these three articles to enable the district to give our students the education that they deserve. These students will be the future of our town. Please reach out to any board member with questions about the budget, we are here to support the community members. All of our contact information is listed on the district website. If we do not have the answer to your question we will get back you with the information. You can also email email@example.com. Please ask those questions, as an informed vote is the best vote.
Springfield School Board Director