Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Education > School budgets: Now it’s up to the voters

School budgets: Now it’s up to the voters

Unless there is an unexpected rash of school budget defeats next week, it looks like Gov. Peter Shumlin won’t get his wish to keep school spending flat next year.

Earlier this year, the governor urged local voters to press for no increases in school budgets. He also said he wanted to hold down property taxes. But if he and the Legislature were really concerned about property taxes, they would restore the commitment of General Fund dollars to the Education Fund to pre-recession levels.

In fiscal 2009, the General Fund contributed $292 million to the Education Fund. This annual transfer to the Education Fund is supposed to increase each year by slightly more than the state and local government inflation index. According to that index, the General Fund transfer to the Education Fund should be $310 million next year. However, in his fiscal 2013 budget, the governor recommended just $282 million.  Property taxes have to make up for this difference even if school budgets don’t increase at all.

Now 95 percent of proposed 2013 budgets are in from the school districts, and total spending is projected to rise 2.5 percent for fiscal 2013. Education spending, which represents about three-quarters of total school expenditures and is the portion used to calculate school tax rates, is projected to rise about 3 percent.

The increase in education spending comes after two years of what was essentially level funding. That means the increase over the last three years has been less than the inflation rate the Legislature uses to determine the annual appropriation to the Education Fund. That inflation rate is projected to rise 5.7 percent between 2010 and 2013. Education spending will rise less than half as much—2.7 percent—over the same period. If voters pass the proposed 2013 budgets on Tuesday, over three years they will have effectively cut their real spending on schools.

The governor generally has been supportive of local school boards and recognized their hard work. Whatever the outcome next week, he would be wise to respect the decisions Vermonters make about educating their children. He made his pitch, but now it’s their turn to have their say.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on March 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

One Response to “School budgets: Now it’s up to the voters”

  1. Al Salzman says:

    Shumlin’s insulting Sleight-of-hand manipulation of the Education Fund, to the detriment of property tax payers- a 28 million dollar cut when inflation is factored in – reveals his one-percenter core. Shumlin crows that he has raised no broad based taxes, but what is a 3 cent increase in the property tax. And the property tax, despite modifications like current use, is still a regressive burden falling on lower income folks. And does Shumlin think his egregious kowtowing to his wealthy friends, who realized that infamous 190 million windfall by the extension of the Bush tax cuts, has been forgotten? Not on your life! The likely property tax increase and his cuts in social services and state worker layoffs is exactly what will impede any recovery according to Paul Krugman Joseph Stiglitz and many other economists.