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YCQM: March 9, 2014 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: March 9, 2014

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

ANNOUNCER: FROM VERMONT'S MOST TRUSTED SOURCE, WCAX BRINGS YOU YOUR NEWSMAKERS, YOUR NEIGHBORS, THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME".

>> HELLO, WELCOME TO "YOU CAN QUOTE ME", I'M KYLE MIDURA, TODAY WE TALK ABOUT STEPHEN DALE OF THE VERMONT SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. TALK TO ME ABOUT TOWN MEETING DAY, 253 SCHOOL BOARDS I BELIEVE VOTE ON BUDGETS. WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?

>> THERE ARE ACTUALLY 254. BUT WHO'S COUNTING? SO WHAT HAPPENED IS THERE ARE ACTUALLY 273 BUDGETS THAT GET VOTED ON IN AN ANNUAL CYCLE, 19 OF THOSE OCCUR LATER IN THE SPRING, SO 254 WERE VOTED ON OUR TOWN MEETING DAY. OF THOSE, 217 PASSED, ONE WAS POSTPONED UNTIL A DATE TO BE DETERMINED, AND 36 WERE DEFEATED.

>> HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS YEARS?

>> HISTORICALLY, AND I SAY HISTORICALLY, LET'S SAY OVER THE LAST DECADE, THERE HAVE BEEN ANYWHERE FROM A LOW OF THREE TO A HIGH OF -- LAST YEAR THERE WERE 22 BUDGETS DEFEATED. THE BIGGEST YEAR FOR BUDGET DEFEATS WAS 2003, WHICH THERE WERE 42 ON TOWN MEETING DAY AND BY THE TIME THE SPRING HAD ENDED, THERE WERE 51. ACTUALLY, I THINK THE NUMBERS MAY HAVE BEEN HIGHER JUST BEFORE ACT 60, BACK IN THE '90S, BUT CERTAINLY IN RECENT HISTORY, THAT WAS THE HIGHEST.

>> MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT 1990, ABOUT 17 ON AVERAGE FAIL?

>> I THINK THAT'S PROBABLY CLOSE.

>> WHAT IS IT THAT LED TO THIS THIS YEAR, IS IT THAT BUDGETS WERE INCREASING AT SOME UNUSUAL RATE, OR IS THIS MORE OF A TAX REVOLT? BECAUSE AS I BELIEVE WE'LL GET INTO THIS A BIT HERE, THE BUDGET INCREASES DON'T NECESSARILY LINE UP WITH THE PROPERTY TAX INCREASES, FROM WHAT I'M BEEN LOOKING AT.

>> LET'S START WITH THE DISCUSSION OF WHAT WAS PRESENTED TO VOTERS. SCHOOL BOARDS, AS YOU KNOW, WORK VERY HARD FOR MONTHS TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER SCHOOL BUDGE TO PRESENT TO THEIR TOWNS, AND THE AVERAGE INCREASE OF BOTH EDUCATION SPENDING AND BUDGETING, THIS YEAR THEY HAPPENED TO BE BOTH UP ABOUT 3 PERCENT, AND THAT WAS AT A TIME WHEN THE STUDENT POPULATION WAS DROPPING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF 1 PERCENT, LTLE LESS THAN 1 PERCENT. SO THE BUDGETS THAT WERE PRESENTED AMBASSADOR GENERALLY FAIRLY REASONABLE. THERE WERE EXCEPTIONS TO THAT. THERE WERE 24 DISTRICTS THAT PROPOSED BUDGET INCREASES OF MORE THAN 10 PERCENT, AND 15 TOWNS PROPOSED BUDGETS THAT CALLED FOR PER-PUPIL SPENDING THAT WAS OVER THE THRESHOLD FOR THE PENALTY. THERE'S AN EXCESS SPENDING PENALTY. IF YOU SPEND MORE THAN $16,166 PER STUDENT, PER EQUALIZED STUDENT, WHICH IS A TECHNICAL TERM, THEN YOU -- THERE IS A TAX PENALTY FOR THAT, SO THERE WERE SOME DISTRICTS QUITE HIGH, BUT ACROSS THE AVERAGE, IT WAS --

>> THE AVERAGE IS 12,000 PER STUDENT?

>> I'D SAY IT'S MORE LIKE 13, 13-14.

>> SO THE BUDGETS THAT WERE PRESENTED WERE PRETTY LOW. THE DILEMMA THIS YEAR WAS THAT THERE WERE MANY INSTANCES WHERE THE PROPOSED TAX INCREASE WAS -- OR THE PROJECTED TAX INCREASE WAS SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER THAN THE PROPOSED BUDGET INCREASE.

>> AND THE TOWNS THAT SAID NO, ARE THEY THE ONES WHO FACE THE BIGGEST PROPERTY TAX HIKES, THE BIGGEST SCHOOL BUS HIKES, OR IS IT A LITTLE BIT RANDOM?

>> IT'S ALWAYS GREAT TO BE IN A POSITION AFTER THE FACT OF TRYING TO ANALYZE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE DONE. OBVIOUSLY, THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF MEETINGS, ON TOWN MEETING DAY, EVERY DISCUSSION WAS DIFFERENT. SOME OF THE BUDGETS THAT PASSED WERE VERY CLOSE, AND THERE WAS A VERY CONTENTIOUS CONVERSATION ABOUT SHOULD THEY PASS THE BUDGET, SHOULD THEY SEND A MESSAGE TO MONT -- MONTPELIER AND IN SOME INSTANCES BUDGETS THAT WERE DEFEATED WERE DEFEATED BY A SMALL NUMBER AND IN FACT THE LAST ONE WE HEARD ABOUT ON TUESDAY NIGHT WAS DORSETT. G -- DORSETT, THAT LOST ON A TIE VOTE AND YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE TO PASS A BUDGET. SO THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION IS, THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT STORIES THAT OCCURRED IN VERMONT. THEN WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE DEFEATS, THE 36 DEFEATS, THERE IS NOT A CLEAR PATTERN. APPROXIMATELY HALF OF THE BUDGETSES THAT WENT DOWN HAD INCREASES OF ANYWHERE FROM FIVE, SIX, UP TO 30 PERCENT INCREASES, AND OUR OBSERVATION IS THAT WHENOU LOOK AT NUMBERS LIKE THAT, VOTERS ARE SIMPLY SAYING THOSE NUMBERS ARE TOO HIGH, WE CAN'T SUPPORT THE WORK DONE BY THE SCHOOL BOARD, AND THE STORY BEHIND EACH OF THOSE NUMBERS IS DIFFERENT IN EACH COMMUNITY. THE OTHER HALF OF THE DEFEATS WERE OF BUDGET PROPOSALS THAT WERE VERY MODEST, LET'S SAY TWO, THREE, 4 PERCENT, AND IN FACT, IN ONE INSTANCE, THE BUDGET -- THE BUDGET IN NUMBER WAS PROPOSED TO GO DOWN 3.25 PERCENT, AND THAT WAS IN UNDERHILL, AND YET THAT BUDGET WENT DOWN, AND OUR ASSUMPTIO ABOUT THOSE DEFEATS IS BY IN LARGE, THEY WERE LOOKING AT VERY LOW BUDGET INCREASES, BUT SIGNIFICANT TAX INCREASES, AND I THINK THE VOTERS ARE PRETTY BEWILDERED BY THOSE NUMBERS AND FELT THAT IT WAS -- THEY NEEDED TO MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT THE INCREASE IN TAX RATES, EVEN KNOWING THAT IF YOU DEFEAT YOUR SCHOOL BUDGET, CHANCES ARE YOU'RE GOING TO STILL BE PAYING A SUBSTANTIAL TAX INCREASE.

>> HISTORICALLY, TOWNS LIKE COLCHESTER ARE KNOWN TO BE QUICK WITH THE NO VOTE, BUT THIS YEAR WE SAW IN CERTAIN MINGS, BURLINGTON, MONTPELIER, OTHERS THAT DON'T TRADITIONALLY VOTE NO, SAYING WE CAN'T DO THIS. ANY INDICATION WHY THAT MAY HAVE SHIFTED YEAR?

>> I LIVE IN MONTPELIER, SO I KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE MONTH MONTPELIER SITUATION AND CERTAINLY, IT IS HIGH PROFILE. WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THESE IN A BIT OF A BROADER CONTEXT. WHEN YOU LOOK AT BUDGET INCREASES OVER THE PAST THREE, FOUR, FIVE YEARS, BURLINGTON HAD SUBSTANTIAL INCREASES OVEREVERAL YEARS. AND, IN FACT, OF COURSE WE REPRESENT SCHOOL BOARDS ALL OVER THE STATE OF VERMONT, AND THERE WERE ALWAYS PEOPLE COMPLAINING ON OTHER SCHOOL BOARDS, GOSH, LOOK AT BURLINGTON'S INCREASE, BECAUSE IT'S A STATEWIDE SYSTEM AND AT SOME LEVEL, EVERYBODY PAYS INTO IT. SO MY FENCE IS THERE COMES A TIME WHEN TAX RATES GO UP THAT PEOPLE SAY MAYBE IT'S TIME TO TAKE A STEP BACK, AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED IN MONTPELIER AS WELL, WE HAD A NUMBER OF INCREASES IN SUESSION AND I THINK PEOPLE SAID LET'S JUST TAKE A STEP BACK. I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOT SEE A BUDGET DEFEAT AS A HORRIBLE THING. WE'RE NOT ENCOURAGING IT BY ANY STRETCH. OBVIOUSLY IN MOST INSTANCES, 85 PERCENT OF THE TOWNS, BUDGETS PASSED. BUT IT'S PART OF THE DEAL, WHEN YOU -- WHEN A BOARD PUTS TOGETHER ITS BEST SHOT AT A BUDGET AND PRESENTS IT TO ITS TOWN, PEOPLE CAN VOTE YES OR NO. THAT'S PART OF OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. IT'S PART OF THE BEAUTY OF VERMONT, THAT THAT HAPPENS LARGELY ONOWN MEETING DAY. SO -- AND THE VOTERS GET TO WEIGH IN, AND I THINK THIS YEAR, IN A NUMBER OF THOSE TOWNS, THEY SAID IT'S TIME TO TAKE A LITTLE CLOSER LOOK.

>> SO GENERALLY, HOW DO TOWNS, BOARDS, PERCEIVE WHEN THEIR BUDGET IS VOTED DOWN, HOW LONG DO THEY HAVE TO ACT AND FIND SOMETHING THAT'S TOLLERRABLE FOR THE COMMUNITY? -- TOLERABLE FOR THE COMMUNITY.

>> THERE'S NOT A CLOCK TICKING BUT IN MOST INSTANCES BOARDS REGROUP IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. IN MONTPELIER, TOWN MEETING DAY, THEY WERE MEETING AND THERE HAVE BEEN INTENSE SITUATIONS AND I THINK THAT'S TRUE IN MOST SITUATIONS. THEY START IMMEDIATELY. USUALLY BOARDS WILL FIRST TRY TO UNDERSTAND, WHAT HAPPENED, WHAT WAS THE MESSAGE, WAS THE MESSAGE MORE TO MONTPELIER, TO STATE GOVERNMENT, OR WAS THE MESSAGE MORE TO THE LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD. OR, IS IT BOTH. IN MOST INSTANCES, I THINK IT'S BOTH. SO SCHOOL BOARDS NEED TO THINK THROUGH, IS THE MESSAGE THAT WE NEED TO SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCE, HAVE WE OVERREACHED IN SOME WAY, OR, FACT, DO WE NEED TO DO SOME RELATIVELY SMALL ADJUSTMENTS AND REPRESENT THE BUDGET TO THE COMMUNITY AND THOSE ARE THE DISCUSSIONS THAT GO ON.

>> YOU MENTIONED THAT SOME AREAS, EVEN WITH DECLINING BUDGETS ARE STILL LOOKING AT A PROPERTY TAX HIKE. LET'S TAKE A FEW MOMENTS AND TALK ABOUT HOW THAT HAPPENS, BECAUSE ACT 60, ACT 68, THEY ARE VERY COM PLATED BEASTS. I THINK THERE MIGHT BE 20, 30 PEOPLE IN THE STATE WHO TRULY UNDERSTAND IT AT A IN-DEPTH LEVEL. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WITH DECLINING BUDGETS, FOLKS COULD BE LOOKING AT BUBBLE BIJT, EVEN, PROPERTY TAX HIKES?

>> IT MIGHT BE 20 OR 30. I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH THIS FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS, AND I LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY, AND PEOPLE AS A RESULT OF CONVERSATIONS LIKE THIS, IT'S NOT UNUSUAL FOR ME TO GET A CALL AFTERWARDS, SAYING YOU DIDN'T GET THAT RIGHT, SO IT IS COMPLICATED. IT'S ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT EDUCATION, UNLIKE OTHER PARTS OF GOVERNMENT, IS A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. THE STATE GOVERNMENTS RUNS POLICY, IT RUNS THE EDUCATION FINANCE SYSTEM, BUT RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSURING AN EXCELLENT PRODUCT FOR STUDENTS AT A PRICE THAT TAXPAYERS CAN AFFORD IS THE JOB OF A SCHOOL BOARD TO OVERSEE THAT, BUT ULTIMATELY, TAXPAYERS WEIGH IN ON THE BUDGET. THEY ARE THE ONES THAT APPROVE THE SPENDING. SO IT'S JUST IMPORTANT TO KEEP THAT IN MIND WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HOW THIS HAPPENS. SO THE TWO PRIMARY DRIVERS, ONE EDUCATION COST, AND PARTICULARLY, HOW MUCH EACH COMMUNITY WILL PAY PER STUDENT, AND THAT'S THE DECISION THAT GETS MADE LOCALLY. THEN THERE'S TAX POLICY, WHICH IS REALLY WHERE'S THE MONEY GOING TO COME FROM, AND WHO'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT, WHAT KINDS OF TAXES AND HOW WILL WE DISTRIBUTE THAT TAX RESPONSIBILITY. AND THAT'S A STATE RESPONSIBILITY. THIS YEAR, I THINK THERE ARE ISSUES IN BOTH ARENAS THAT CAME TOGETHER TO CAUSE THIS SITUATION THAT WE'VE HAD. SO LET ME TA FOR A SECOND ABOUT TAX POLICY. IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT THIS YEAR, THERE WERE FOUR DRIVERS THAT RESULTED IN A 4.8% TAX INCREASE FOR EVERY ONE IN VERMONT, EVERY PROPERTY TAX OWNER BEFORE A DISTRICT DECIDED TO SPEND A DIME. AND THOSE FOUR VARIABLES WERE THAT THIS YEAR, THE YEAR THAT WE'RE CURRENTLY IN, THERE WAS $19.3 MILLION OF SURPLUS IN THE EDUCATION FUND. THAT MON IS BEING SPENT THIS YEAR. SO AT THE BEGINNING OF NEXT YEAR, YOU ARE STARTING WITH SOMETHING CLOSER TO ZERO.

>> AND THAT WAS A DECISION IN ORDER TO KEEP PROPERTY TAXES DOWN LAST YEAR?

>> YOU KNOW, IT'S MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT. IT HAPPENED FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS THAT WE ENDED UP WITH A SURPLUS IN THE ED FUND AND THERE ARE OTHERS WHO COULD ANSWER WHY THAT WAS, BUT THAT'S PART OF THE REALITY. SO FOR NEXT YEAR, WE NEED TO RAISE TAXES BY THAT $19.3 MILLION IN ORDER TO START WHERE WE WERE THIS YEAR. THUS FAR, THAT DISCUSSION HAS BEEN ABOUT BASICALLY IT WILL GO TO THE PROPERTY TAX. EVERY TIME WE RAISE MONEY, WE HAVE A CHOICE OF WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM. SO THAT'S ONE OF THE VARIABLES THIS YEAR. THE SECOND IS THAT WE HAVE BEEN ON A COURSE OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS OF THE PERCENTAGE OF MONEY GOING INTO THE EDUCATION FUND HAS BEEN SHIFTING FROM BROAD-BASED TAXES TOWARD PROPERTY TAX, AND IT WENT FROM 2005, 61 PERCENT, BEING FROM THE PROPERTY TAX, THE BUDGETS THAT WERE JUST APPROVED, TAKE IT TO 68 PERCENT. SO AS THAT SHIFTS, PROPERTY TAXES ARE HIGHER, AND IT'S ALL A RELATIVE THING.

>> WELL, THAT MIGHT NOT SOUND LIKE MUCH UNTIL YOU CONSIDER IT'S A $1.5 BILLION PRICE TAG.

>> THAT'S CORRECT. IT'S MILLIONS MORE THAT'S GOING TO COME OUT OF THE PUBLIC PROPERTY TAXES. THE THIRD IS THAT PROPERTY VALUES ARE STILL, THE WAY WE CALCULATE PROPERTY VALUES IN THE GRAND LIST, IS AT A MULTI-YEAR AVERAGE, AND WE ARE STILL COMING OUT OF THE RECESSION FOR THAT CALCULATION, SO PROPERTY VALUES IN VERMONT HAVE CONTINUED TO FALL SLIGHTLY, AND IN ORDER TO RAISE THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY AGAINST A LOWER GRAND LIST, YOU HAVE TO RAISE PROPERTY TAXES TO THE TAX RATE IN ORDER TO RAISE THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY. THEN THE LAST PIECE IS THAT WE ARE IN A STATEWIDE SYSTEM, SO THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT NEEDS TO BE RAISED COMES -- IS DETERMINED BY ALL OF THESE TOWN MEETING VOTES. YOU END UP WITH THE FULL SUM OF MONEY THAT HAS TO BE RAISE D. SO IF YOUR PARTICULAR DISTRICT DIDN'T SPEND ANOTHER DIME, YOU HAVE TO PAY INTO THE TAX SYSTEM TO FUND ALL OF THE EDUCATION BUDGETS FROM ALL OVER THE STATE.

>> IF YOUR DISTRICT IS SPENDING THE SAME AMOUNT BUT HAS LESS STUDENTS, YOU ARE ALSO LOOKING AT A POTENTIALLY HIGHER RATE THERE AS WELL.

>> YES. SO THAT GETS TO THE SECOND PART OF THE -- SO THERE'S THIS SORT OF GLOBAL TAX POLICY. LOCAL TAXES ARE AFFECTED IN A FAIRLY SUBSTANTIAL MEASURE BY THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT YOU SPEND PER STUDENT IN YOUR DISTRICT, SO THAT'S AFTER YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT 4.8% INCREASE THIS YEAR, BASED ON STATE POLICY. NOW YOU TURN TO WHAT'S HAPPENING IN YOUR LOCAL DISTRICT, AND YOU GET INTO THE PER-STUDENT COST.

>> IS ACT 60 AND ACT 68 A LARGE PORTION OF WHY THIS IS HAPPENING? OR IS THIS SIMPLY INFLATING EDUCATION COSTS THAT ARE INCREASING AT A RATE HIGHER THAN INFLATION ITSELF? ARE WE SIMPLY LOOKING AT AN INCREASE IN HOW MUCH EDUCATION COSTS THESE DAYS, WITH NEW ELECTRONICS THAT KEEP GETTING FASTER AND MORE INCREDIBLE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IN ORDER FOR A SCHOOL DISTRICT TO KEEP UP THEY HAVE TO CONTINUALLY REINVEST IN SOME OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES.

>> THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DRIVERS THAT ARE INFLUENCING THE INCREASED EDUCATION EXPENSESES ON THE LOCAL LEVEL , SUCH THAT TY HAVE BEEN PUSHING COSTS UP PER STUDENT FASTER THAN THE RATE OF INFLATION. COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS, BECAUSE WE ARE SO STAFF-INTENSIVE, THIS YEAR, I THINK THEY WERE IN THE 3 1/2 TO 4 PERCENT RANGE OF THOSE COSTS. HEALTH CARE, THE HEALTH CARE RATES WENT UP 4.5% THIS YEAR, BUT THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT THAT IS GRADUALLY KICKING INTO GEAR REQUIRES THAT SCHOOL DISTRICTS COVER ADDITIONAL STAFF BEYOND THE FOLKS THAT WERE COVER BEFORE. DEFERRED MAINTENANCE. THERE WERE MANY YEARS WHEN THE STATE CONTRIBUTED TO CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS IN SCHOOLS. THAT HAS BEEN -- NOT BEEN THE CASE FOR THE LAST SEVEN YEARS. PEOPLE DEFERRED MAINTENANCE, DEFERRED MAINTENANCE, AND THERE COMES A TIME WHEN YOU CAN'T DEFER IT ANYMORE. AND SO DISTRICTS TAKE THAT ON, AND ONCE THOSE COSTS ARE TAKEN ON, THEY BECOME PART OF THE BASE BUDGET, AND THEY INFLUENCE LOCAL SPENDING.

>> YOU ALREADY MENTIONED IT, THE NEED FOR EDUCATION TO KEEP PACE WITH THE CONSTANTLY CHANGING DEMANDS AND EXPECTATIONS AND PARTICULARLY IN THE TECHNOLOGY AREA. MANY OF OUR SCHOOLS HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB OF TRYING TO KEEP AHEAD OF THE TECHNOLOGY CURVE.

>> SPECIAL EDUCATION, I'M GUESSING?

>> SPECIAL EDUCATION IS -- IT'S A VERY BIG ISSUE.

>> WHY ARE SPECIAL ED COSTS INCREASING SO QUICKLY?

>> WELL, PART OF THE CHALLENGE IS THAT IF YOU TALK TO AN AVERAGE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, THEY WILL SAY TO YOU WE'RE BUILDING OUR BUDGET, AND WE ARE LOOKING AT ALL THE THINGS THAT I WAS JUST DESCRIBING TO YOU, AND THEN WE ARE TOLD, AND BY THE WAY, WE NEED TO ADD $250,000 IN NEW COSTS RELATED TO SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS. THEIR CONCERN IS THAT IT'S ONE OF THOSE AREAS THAT BOTH THE BOARD AT SOME LEVEL AND THE COMMUNITY DON'T REALLY GET TO SCRUTINIZE, AND THERE'S A GOOD REASON FOR THAT. WE DON'T WANT OUR COMMUNITIES, WE DON'T WANT EVEN OUR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS, GETTING INTO THE DETAILS AROUND AN INDIVIDUAL CHILD'S NEEDS OR PLAN.

>> ARE WE SEEING MORE NEED OR WAS THERE A MORE FEDERAL AND STATE MANDATE THAT SCHOOLS HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH?

>> I THINK IT'S A COMBINATION OF FACTORS. I THINK THERE IS CONTINUING TO BE MORE NEED. BUT I ALSO THINK IT'S ONE OF THOSE AREAS THAT WE NEED, IN THE WE BEING THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY AT LARGE, BOTH ON THE STATE LEVEL, THROUGH THE STATE AGENCY OF EDUCATION, AS WELL AS ON THE LOCAL LEVEL, TO TALK ABOUT BEST PRACTICES TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHY IT IS THAT SOME SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE HAD A SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER RATE OF IDENTIFICATION OF STUDENTS THAN OTHERS, WHY IT IS THAT SOME SCHOOLS USE PARI-EDUCATORS AT A MUCH MORE FREQUENT RATE THAN OTHERS. IT'S AN AREA THAT'S WORTHY OF FURTHER EXPLORATION WITHOUT GETTING INTO, YOU KNOW, ANY STUDENT-SPECIFIC INFORMATION. SO I THINK IT'S AN AREA THAT'S WORTHY OF FURTHER EXPLORATION AND THE LEGISLATURE HAS THOUGHT THAT AS WELL.

>> WE ARE CHATTING TODAY WITH STEVE DALE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE VERMONT SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION. WE'LL BE BACK WITH MORE ON THIS

>> WELCOME BACK TO "YOU CAN QUOTE ME", WE'RE JOINED BY STEVE DALE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE VERMONT SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION. WE'VE BEEN TALKING SCHOOL BUDGETS, WHAT HAPPENED THIS TOWN MEETING DAY LAST TUESDAY, AS WELL AS WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT SOME OF THE RISING COSTS WE'RE FACING IN EDUCATION. LET'S START THERE AS WE BEGIN THIS SECOND HALF OF THE PROGRAM. WHAT CAN WE DO TO CUT BACK ON THE INCREASINGLY RISING COSTS IN EDUCATION?

>> BEFORE I GO THERE, IF I COULD JUST SAY, TWO MORE UPWARD DRIVERS, ONE IS THAT THERE ARE -- I'M SURE FOLKS HAVE HEARD THIS MANY TIMES BEFORE, BUT THERE ARE CONSTANTLY NEW EXPECTATIONS OF OUR SCHOOLS, AND THOSE EXPECTATIONS COME BOTH FROM STATE GOVERNMENT, AS WELL AS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. MOST OF THEM ARE GOOD THINGS, THAT MOST OF US WOULD AGREE WITH, AND EACH ONE OF THEM MAY NOT BE A HUGE BUDGET ISSUE IN AND OF ITSELF. BUT OVER THE LAST 10 OR 12 YEARS, THERE HAVE BEEN MANY EXPECTATIONS, AND IF WE ARE GOING TO IMPLEMENT THOSE NEW EXPECTIONS, THEY DO COME WITH A PRICE TAG.

>> YOU MEAN A -- CAN YOU GIVE ME A COUPLE OF EXAMPLES?

>> SURE. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF ATTENTION ON BULLYING AND HARASSMENT. THERE ARE PROCEDURES THAT NEED TO BE PUT IN PLACE, TRAINING THAT NEEDS TO BE PROVIDED, INCREASED PROTOCOLS THAT REQUIRE STAFF TIME AND SO ON. IMPORTANT ISSUE, NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED, BUT THOSE ARE NEW ADMINISTRATIVE EXPECTATIONS. THERE WAS CONCUSSION LEGISLATION LAST YEAR THAT REQUIRES HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS TO BE AT THE ADVANCED -- COLLISION SPORTS, AND THERE IS SOME DEBATE ABOUT WHAT SHOULD BE A COLLISION SPORT. IMPORTANT, THE MORE WE KNOW ABOUT THIS ISSUE, THE MORE THAT WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO IT. BUT THERE ARE COSTS ASSOCIATED. THE COMMON CORKS YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD ABOUT THE COMMON CORE, I THINK YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT -- YOU ARE TALKING WITH SECRETARY HOLCUM IN THE NEAR FUTURE AND SHE WILL TELL YOU ABOUT COMMON CORE BUT TREMENDOUS AMOUNTS OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, THERE ARE TECHNOLOGY REQUIREMENTS BECAUSE THE TESTING NEEDS TO BE DONE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY, SO THERE ARE SUBSTANTIAL COSTS THAT WE HAVEN'T REALLY TALKED MUCH ABOUT IN MANY PUBLIC POLICY FORUMS. THE WHOLE REQUIREMENT AROUND PERSONALIZED LEARNING PLANS, WE STRONGLY SUPPORT PERSONAL LEARNING, BUT IT COMES -- THERE ARE IMPLEMENTATION COSTS. SO THOSE ARE JUST SOME EXAMPLES. PROBABLY THE LARGEST ISSUE RELATIVE TO BUDGETS THAT RELATES TO LOCAL FOLKS AND LOCAL BUDGET BUILDERS IS THE ISSUE OF HOW MANY ADULTS WORK IN OUR SCHOOLS. IT IS -- IF YOU LOOK AT A GRAPH OF THE LAST 15 OR 20 YEARS, YOU WILL SEE THAT WE HAVE ALMOST AS MANY -- JUST ABOUT THE SAME NUMBER OF ADULTS WORKING IN OUR SCHOOLS TODAY AS WE DID AT THE TIME, BUT WE HAVE ABOUT 15, 17 PERCENT FEWER STUDENTS, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW THAT CAN BE. PART OF THAT IS BECAUSE OF ALL THESE NEW REQUIREMENTS, PART OF IT IS BECAUSE SPECIAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS. BUT PART OF IT IS BECAUSE IT IS MUCH EASIER TO PLAN FOR STAFFING WHEN YOU IN THIS TYPE OF GROWTH AND YOU SAY NOW WE HAVE X NUMBER OF SECOND GRADERS, IT'S TIME TO ADD A TEACHER SO THEN WE'LL GO FROM 23 STUDENTS TO 18 STUDENTS AND THEN THEY WILL CONTINUE TO GROW, BUT WHEN YOU'RE ON THE DOWN END AND IT'S A HYPOTHETICAL DISCUSSION THAT TAKES PLACE ON A PIECE OF PAPER, WHERE THE MATH IS BEING DONE, BUT WHEN YOU ARE ON THE DOWNWARD SLOPE, IT'S NO LONGER A HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION. NOW IT'S MY CHILD'S SECOND GRADE TEACHER, NOW IT'S THE TEACHER THAT HAS THE BEST KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO USE TECHNOLOGY TO ITS OPTIMUM. IT BECOMES A MUCH MORE CHALLENGING DISCUSSION, AND YOU END UP WITH LARGE GROUPS OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS, CITIZENS, PARENTS, WHO ARE COMING TO SAY, YOU KNOW, DON'T REDUCE BY X, Y, Z. SO I THINK WE HAVE FOUND IT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS. THIS YEAR, YOU MAY HAVE SEEN IN THE MEDIA, THERE WERE A NUMBER OF SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS COVERED WHERE THERE WERE DISCUSSIONS OF STAFF REDUCTIONS THAT WERE PRETTY INTENSE, AND SO I THINK A LOT OF BOARDS TOOK THAT ISSUE ON THIS YEAR, BUT IT CONTINUES TO BE A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE FOR US.

>> WE'VE SPENT THE BULK OF THE PROGRAM TALKING ABOUT THE CHALLENGES. HOW DO WE ADDRESS THOSE CHALLENGE, HOW DO WE GET THOSE COSTS TO A PLACE THAT IS SUSTAINABLE FOR TAXPAYERS?

>> THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THAT I WOULD SAY ABOUT THAT. THESE ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. TH ARE WHAT COMES TO MIND. BUT ONE IS THAT WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO LOOK AT THE SOURCES FOR THE EDUCATION FUND. OBVIOUSLY, IF WE'RE SPENDING AT A CERTAIN LEVEL, THAT MONEY HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, AND IT WILL COME FROM TAXPAYERS. THE QUESTION, WHICH ONES, AND ON WHAT BASIS. SO ONE OF THE THINGS WE HAVE TO KEEP ASKING OURSELVES IS DO WE WANT THE DEMANDS ON THE PROPERTY TAX TO CONTINUE TO GROW AT THEIR CURRENT RATE. SO THERE DOES NEED TO BE CONSCIOUS DISCUSSION ABOUT WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE ED FUND SHOULD COME FROM PROPERTY TAXES VERSUS BROAD-BASED, SO IT'S ONE THING THAT CAN BE ADDRESSED AROUND PROPERTY TAXES. A SECOND IS WE LOOK AT THE STRUCTURE OF THE ECHT D FINANCING SYSTEM. I THINK MOST PEOPLE AGREE, AT LEAST MOST PEOPLE THAT I'VE HEARD, BELIEVE THAT OUR CURRENT SYSTEM IS THE RIGHT SYSTEM, THAT IT IS FAIR, IT'S EQUITABLE, AND IT ASSURES THAT STUDENTS HAVE ACCESS TO REASONABLY EQUAL RESOURCES TO SUPPORT THEIR EDUCATION. BUT THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THAT COULD BE DONE I THINK TO IMPROVE IT, AND PERHAPS INFLUENCE SOME OF HOW IT PLAYS OUT. ONE OF THE -- IN FACT, YOU RAISED THIS A WHILE AGO, IT'S NOT TERRIBLY UNDERSTANDABLE, AND THERE'S THE THING IN THIS FORMULA CALLED THE BASE RATE, WHICH DOESN'T RELATE TO ANYTHING, OTHER THAN HISTORY. AT THE BEGINNING, I THINK IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THAT THE BASE RATE WOULD REFLECT HOW MUCH SHOULD IT COST TO DELIVER A QUALITY EDUCATION FOR A STUDENT IN VERMONT. WE ARE NOWHERE CLOSE TO THAT AT THIS POINT. SO THERE'S BEEN SOME DISCUSSION ABOUT REBASING THE SYSTEM IN A WAY THAT RELATES TO ACTUAL COST. A MAJOR DRIVER IN THIS SYSTEM IS SPENDING PER EQUALIZED STUDENT. I WONDER WHETHER WE SHOULD BE HAVING THOSE DISCUSSIONS MORE OVERTLY. IN THE PRESENTATION OF OUR BUDGETS. SAY YOUR BUDGET WENT UP 2 PERCENT, AND WE HAVE A LOT OF THOSE THIS YEAR, IT IS VERY REASONABLE AND IT'S WHERE WE SHOULD BE.

>> WHAT IF IT WAS TOO HIGH TO BEGIN WITH?

>> WELL, IT'S MORE IF -- IN A SMALL TOWN, IF YOU LOST 10 PERCE OF YOUR STUDENT BODY THIS LAST YEAR, THEN YOUR PER-STUDENT COST IS GOING TO GO WAY UP AND IT WILL DIRECTLY AFFECT YOUR TAX RATE. BUT WE MIGHT WANT TO BUILD THAT CONVERSATION MORE INTO THE PROCESS.

>> WE HAVE A LITTLE VIDEO. I WANT TO GET TO CONSOLIDATION. LEGISLATORS CHATTING ABOUT IT WILL SAY IT'S A GREAT IDEA FOR THE STRUCTURE OF GOVERNANCE, BUT WE CAN'T PROMISE IT WILL POTENTIALLY SAVE MONEY. DO YOU SEE IT THE SAME WAY?

>> I DO. I THINK IF WE GO NEAR THE CONSOLIDATION EFFORT THAT'S CURRENTLY IN THE LEGISLATURE, IT COULD PUT US IN A PLACE WHERE THE INCREASE IN THE COST CURVE COULD BE DONE, IF YOU WILL, OVER TIME, BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE TO GO INTO IT BELIEVING THAT IT'S A SOLUTION TO THE OVERALL EDUCATION COST ISSUE.

>> WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT IT OFF RIGHT THERE. STEVE DALE, AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE VERMONT SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION. THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME". WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK. CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY CAPTION ASSOCIATES, LLC WWW.CAPTIONASSOCIATES.COM

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