School Board Update; Hearing Dec. 16

Hi neighbors — It’s budget-preparation season for the Burlington School Board, as most of you no doubt realize from this morning’s Free Press article (for those of you who didn’t see it, here’s the link: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20081214/NEWS02/812140310/1001/NEW.

As Molly Walsh noted, our first public hearing on the proposed budget will be held in the cafeteria of Burlington High School on Tuesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. Other dates and times are available on the District website (http://www.bsdvt.org). The Board will present the public with information about the cost of maintaining existing programs, and will also solicit feedback on a (very) short list of possible additions, including:

  • a 6th grade teacher to help handle a surge of students in that grade;
  • a teacher to offer foreign language in 6th grade (currently the only grade that does not have language instruction);
  • part-time staffing to support implementation of the District’s magnet schools (additional information about the magnets is available at http://www.bsdmagnet.com );
  • A data specialist to help the District collect and process the student information required by state and federal law (particularly No Child Left Behind).

At the Board’s last meeting, Superintendent Collins and I presented the outline of the budget to the Board. The Board also approved a resolution to ask the City Council for a charter change to increase the District’s annual borrowing authority for capital improvements from $750,000 to $2 million. That increase, which is supported by the City administration, will enable the District to more effectively perform the necessary maintenance on the $90 million of property that it manages.

As instructed by the City Council, the District and the City administration have been meeting regularly to review the District’s capital improvement requirements in the context of the City’s other capital needs and its borrowing capacity. A number of different options have been discussed on how best to move the District forward, and as recommendations emerge, I will pass them on.

In the meantime, the District is pursuing all available avenues of funding. On Monday morning, the District is hosting a breakfast for the Chittenden County legislators. Among the topics the District plans to discuss are the need to:

  • keep the State Education Fund devoted to education;
  • repeal the State’s capital improvements spending moratorium;
  • revise the State’s funding formula to more effectively support the District’s neediest students;
  • fully fund special education mandates; and
  • make sure Burlington is at the top of the list for any federal stimulus funds.

The possibility that the new federal administration will make a substantial investment in the nation’s infrastructure could be good news for the Burlington School District. As a result of the extensive public planning that resulted in this summer’s Master Plan, the District is well-positioned with a “shovel-ready” project that would accomplish many of the goals laid out by the President-elect, including education improvements, job creation, and local economic stimulus.

Please come to the District’s budget hearings and give us your input on the budget for the upcoming year. If you are unable to attend and have questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

Fred Lane
12 Catherine Street
Ward 5 School Commissioner
Finance Committee Chair
FLane@bsdvt.org

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