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Burlington addresses major flaws in school budget - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington addresses major flaws in school budget

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Major flaws were uncovered in the Burlington school budget that failed at the polls. An audit has discovered the district was making huge errors when budgeting for next year. What this means is that the budget voters already thought was too high could in fact go even higher.

"The notion that the district has been under-budgeting or has not been reflecting actual expenses in their budget by this amount is a very shocking thing to think about," said school board finance chair Miriam Stoll.

It is a budget that has already failed at the polls and now, the Burlington School District has uncovered another big problem. A new audit shows the school budget had been built based on previous budgets and not actual spending and that had been the case for several years.

"And they came back to us just at the end of last week and said to us in fact what we have been doing was making an error in how we budgeted. So, in fact the budget that we put out for FY15 wasn't actually reflective of our spending," Stoll says.

School board Chair Patrick Halladay says, essentially, the district has been spending more than what the budget was showing and were planning next year on expense estimates that were too low.

From FY14 there is a $2.5 million deficit that needs to be made up and the district had under-budgeted FY15 for another $2.5 million. That means over the next few years, the board will need to find about $5 million.

"It's real and it's serious. And we are certainly not going to be able to do all of the things we hope we would be able to do,"  Halladay says.

Halladay says they are now headed back to the drawing board to find a new budget that will address this gap.

"It could mean a couple of things. It could mean higher taxes, it could mean more cuts or it could mean some combination of those." Halladay says.

Halladay says it is too early to tell how these errors occurred. Superintendent Jeanne Collins says the faulty numbers are due to a change in business managers and an antiquated software system that did not provide adequate detail.   

Now, the board says it must present a budget that will come with an even bigger price tag with more cuts than the voters previously shot down.

"Yeah, we have concerns. I have concerns as a parent, I have concerns as an educator, I have concerns as a board member, I have concerns as a citizen, and as a taxpayer. What do I imagine will happen? I don't want to guess," Halladay says.

The audit also revealed that the district's been late paying payroll taxes and will likely owe the IRS a penalty fee.

As for a new budget, once the board has one it will be sent to city council and then voters for approval.

There is a special school board meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Burlington High School cafeteria where progress on a new budget will be discussed.

The mayor decline to comment on the situation.

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