Town Meeting Day voters by and large approved local school budget proposals Tuesday, despite the fact that increases in education spending are outpacing what districts asked for last year.
So far this year, 96 school districts have put their fiscal year 2020 budget proposals before voters. As of Wednesday afternoon, only three were rejected.
Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association, was still awaiting results Wednesday from four districts that hadn’t submitted vote counts. But he said the overall trend thus far is in keeping with Vermonters’ historical voting behaviors.
“I think overall it’s just indicative of the fact that we support public education in Vermont, and that folks pay attention to the needs as they emerge and try to respond to them,” Francis said.
Last year, districts held the increase overall education spending to less than two percent. This year, spending is set to rise by closer to four percent. Francis said he can’t pinpoint the reason for the jump. But he does have an educated guess.
“While I don’t know with certainty, it may be that a series of lean years have now led to a year in which the increases are a little bit more,” Francis said.
Nicole Mace, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, said many districts used reserves or other one-time funds to help keep budget increases down in recent years. She said many districts have likely depleted the reserves that might have otherwise been used in 2019 to keep spending rates down.
Francis says the three districts that saw their budgets defeated - Alburgh, Milton Town and Springfield - have historically struggled to pass budgets.
Seventeen districts have yet to present their budget plans to voters.