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Weinberger Supports New, Increased School Budget

Two weeks before Burlington voters are faced with a new school budget vote - this one higher than the budget that failed on Town Meeting Day - Mayor Miro Weinberger came out in support of the new school budget.

The district is faced with a number of financial issues, from payments owed to the Internal Revenue Service to a major budgeting error that caused budgets to be based on early projections of the previous year’s spending instead of the actual amounts spent.

These issues led to chronic under budgeting in the school system, and the fallout surrounding the discovery of the mismanagement led to the resignations of Superintendent Jeanne Collins and the district’s finance director.

Mayor Weinberger initially voiced serious reservations about the new budget when the school board presented it to the city council. He called for resignations of district leadership at the time. With Collins out, Weinberger said now is the time to support the new budget.

“After a polarizing vote on Town Meeting Day and months of troubling news about the school district, it is time for Burlingtonians to come together and support the board’s effort to address head on the financial problems the school district faces and to show that we value Burlington’s excellent public schools,” Weinberger said Monday.

Miriam Stoll, the chairwoman of the school board’s finance committee, emphasized that property taxes will rise whether the budget passes or not.

For a $200,000 house, she said, passing the new budget would mean a $220 increase in annual property taxes.

A failing vote could lead to a default budget, cutting an additional $1.2 million from the proposed budget. But even under that model, Stoll said, taxes on that $200,000 house would rise by about $160 per year.

Stoll said that difference of about $60 over the course of the year could have a serious impact on the school district’s ability to right its financial path.

“Unfortunately, there’s a huge tax increase even with the default,” she said.

Weinberger, Stoll and other proponents say Burlington’s schools - and the city as a whole - will be better off if voters accept the higher increase and trust the school board and district officials to control costs with data-driven methods as opposed to budget constraints.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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