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Burlington school commission explores alternate options for school funding

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 11:26 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2022 at 6:36 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington school commissioners have a big decision to make, as a potential funding problem for the new high school and technical center comes to the surface.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan says time is of the essence, saying they’re still determined to have students in a new building by the August 2025 goal.

Right now, they’re facing a $35 million gap in funding. School commissioners say they’re hoping to receive state or federal funding for the project.

Conversation Clare Wool, chair of the school commission, says has been ongoing since the bond vote passed earlier this year.

“Our high school has been shut down by state agencies on the recommendation of the environmental agencies on the federal level as well, so we need help with the cleanup of this contaminated site,” Wool explained.

Flanagan says the city is only allowing them to bond $150 million of funding for the new high school and tech center, far below their $210 million plan. In addition to the bond, they have $25 million from other capital plans.

“Every dollar we spend has an impact, so we need to make sure we’re being thoughtful about how we’re allocating those funds,” Flanagan said after school commissioners began questioning other improvements in the budget.

The school commission is looking at cost-cutting measures to make up for this downfall, like moving part of the technical center to the airport.

“We have a $10 million grant from Senator Leahy to build at the airport,” Flanagan told WCAX News. “We have an aviation program there, but we have other programming that could also benefit from being at the airport.”

He said the benefits of being at the airport include more space and better networking opportunities.

Wool said they’re still speaking with the city about the bond, hoping to get more approved. All of the bonds for this project will need to be approved by voters. They’re planned to be on the ballot in November.

“We are, as I said, in a state of emergency without a high school,” Wool said. “Right now, we are using educational dollars to pay rent and that is not a good use of educational dollars.”

Flanagan says they are planning to have a follow-up meeting next week to discuss this potential funding issue further. He says hopefully a decision will be made then as well.

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