Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Statement in Support of Burlington School Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 19, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962

Mayor Miro Weinberger Statement in Support of Burlington School Budget – delivered at today’s news conference at C.P. Smith Elementary School
 

Welcome to C.P. Smith Elementary School and thank you, Principal Tom Fleury, for hosting today’s school budget announcement at your school.  And thanks to all of you for joining me here today.  

I will be voting for the June 3rd school budget being proposed by the School Board and believe Burlington will be well-served by that budget for two key reasons:

First, I believe the School Board elected in March has demonstrated through repeated steps that it is serious about cleaning up the schools’ finances.  These steps have included: commissioning an audit focused on diagnosing the cause of the repeated deficits; making substantial and painful cuts amounting to millions of dollars in response to the results of the audit; and, most significantly, signaling that the future of the District will be different under new leadership.  My support of the budget is, in part, a reflection of my belief that it is important to support this Board’s ongoing effort to put our school system on more stable footing. 

Second, our community is fortunate to have the excellent public school system that we enjoy, and I am concerned that too many cuts too quickly and without a deliberate strategy will do considerable lasting damage to that system, particularly in the programs and services that directly impact our children.  As it is, many dedicated teachers and staff, who face significant uncertainty about their personal futures, are working tirelessly with our students to wrap up the school year and plan for the next.  As the School Board continues to identify and correct past mistakes, we cannot allow our legitimate frustration to compound the problems that our schools face.

I want to be clear that I am well aware that the Board has much more work ahead to put the School District on sound financial footing and control the unsustainable tax increases of recent years.  The Board has yet to figure out how the School District’s finances will be managed during the upcoming transition – either by taking the City up on our offer of financial management assistance or through some other interim measure.  Further, the School District likely will face a revenue challenge in future years as it works with the State to resolve how payments in lieu of taxes, or “PILOT” payments, will be handled in future years.  The School District faces major challenges continuing to modernize its facilities and meet the emerging educational needs of the community, while at the same time containing the costs this modernization requires.  My Administration will continue to support and challenge the District to do more in these areas in the months ahead through the School Board and City Council-approved cost-control measures that I first proposed last January and through other efforts.  It will be very important that the District make significant progress in all these areas before next Town Meeting Day.

Finally, it is clear to me that some of the concerns about rising property taxes that Burlingtonians are facing will be addressed only by changes to statewide education financing policy.  While Burlington is doing its hard work over the next year to find efficiencies wherever possible, it is critical that similar progress be made at the statewide level. 

However, these challenges are for another day.  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 efforts to address squarely the financial problems the School District faces and to show that we value Burlington’s excellent public schools, recognize their importance to our local economy, and want to see them continue to thrive. 

The June 3rd vote is an opportunity to voice confidence in and support for a largely new Board that already has demonstrated it is willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to fix the School District’s financial problems and to give that Board every opportunity to succeed at this critical challenge.  The June 3rd vote is a chance to demonstrate that Burlington will remain a place of great opportunity for all of our children.

 

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Press Release Date: 
05/19/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office