Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on the GM budget, then demand better

The $14 million Green Mountain Unified School District budget, which will go before the voters on Tuesday March 3, isn’t perfect.

One glaring error is that the school board failed to fight harder to include the long promised foreign language program for the district’s elementary schools, but still managed to be 9 percent over last year’s budget.

The 2020-21 budget, which funds Cavendish Town and Chester-Andover elementaries and Green Mountain High, could have been slimmer. But with all the state mandates that have been placed upon it, it would not have been very healthy. Those mandates include:

  • a 12.9 percent increase in health insurance premiums
  • the first $4,200 of employees’ out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • support staff can now include their families on their health insurance.
  • a $118,684 hike for vocational education and
  • a $131,147 jump in the special education assessment from Two Rivers Supervisory Union.

Those alone amount to $573,000.

But the fact is that this budget, even with its flaws, was hard fought by a school board who has — in the last year or so — been mud wrestling to bring order and transparency to what has been a stupifyingly confusing process. It has not been pretty.

This is why I am urging that voters approve this 2020-21 Green Mountain budget. Consider it a vote of approval for the board’s actions over the past year and a vote of confidence that members will continue on this path of order and transparency.

With a new superintendent in the offing, let’s hope that this mission runs more smoothly. But in exchange for support, voters need to demand something in return. (Yes, a quid pro quo.)

Before I get there, let me just say that the board needs your help — yes, you. You don’t have to serve on the board or attend every meeting. But could you attend just one meeting a year or how about calling your local reps to tell them what you think? You could even write a letter to the editor. We’ll publish. The Facebook bitching is falling on deaf ears.

Back to our previously scheduled program:

Here’s my quid pro quo to the GM board. (Feel free, dear readers, to comment with your own ideas):

  • Begin in April for the fiscal 2021-22 budget by setting up a process and a schedule.
  • Update and confirm the board’s vision and priorities, with input from the public and teachers (You know, those people we haven’t heard directly from in a while).
  • Apply zero-based budgeting instead of the “additive model” of the past.
  • Clearly explain the spending behind each line.
  • Demand that the Supervisory Union prepare understandable documents that are distributed early enough to be useful to board members and taxpayers.
  • Make the process transparent and encourage input from everyone.
  • Produce a budget book that explains and quantifies the work behind the budget.
  • Establish measurable goals and follow up on them, and
  • Demand rigorous financial management.

And, as we always urge, be sure to go to your polls on Tuesday, March 3, and vote.

Andover Town Hall, 953 Weston-Andover Road, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Baltimore Town Hall, 1902 Baltimore Road, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cavendish – Proctorsville Fire Station, 513 Main St., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Chester Town Hall, 556 Elm St., from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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