Colchester schools try video to win over voters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Colchester schools try video to win over voters

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COLCHESTER, Vt. -

Year after year, Colchester school administrators struggle to convince residents to pass costlier and costlier budgets.

"I don't feel that another tax increase is the way to go," parent Ron Martel said.

"Whatever they use the money for it's going to help our kids," parent Laurie Dewyea said.

Rick Giroux/Parent: I would probably vote against it.

Reporter Kyle Midura: And why is that?

Rick Giroux: We're being taxed out of the community.

In an 11-minute online presentation featuring music, graphics and interviews, Colchester school administrators try to make the case for spending more on the town's schools prior to the Town Meeting Day vote.

"It's important that we try to be proactive to keep our community members informed," said Larry Waters, the superintendent of Colchester schools.

The proposed budget would represent a nearly 9-percent increase in the local property tax. But administrators argue the state's funding mechanism is largely responsible for the rise. They say taxes would still go up even at level funding.

"We're one of the lowest per-pupil spending districts in the area-- currently well below the statewide average, but our performance based upon NECAP testing is among the highest," Waters said.

Last month, Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, called on residents to scrutinize local budgets more carefully. Some school boards pushed back, arguing the state system-- not local control-- is to blame for rising costs.

Rep. Dave Sharpe is on the House committee which works closest with the state's tax system.

"We're at a time I believe politically and educationally where we need to make changes for better outcomes for our kids and we can make changes because of the property tax implications," said Sharpe, D-Bristol.

He says Vermont is poised to spend $47 million more this year on schools than it did last year. The committee is working on tweaking the education funding mechanism, but Sharpe encourages more districts to produce videos like Colchester's.

Most parents we spoke with already made up their minds about how they'll vote.

"I definitely will watch it and it would probably not change my mind," Giroux said.

"I'd like to know what they're going to use the funds for and I think it will be helpful to know what our needs are for the school," Dewyea said.

Parents did say if they haven't already seen the video, they'll give it a chance to cement their position or change their mind.

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