2022 Report From the School Directors
A few years back, I highlighted the vision statement of the CES Board of Directors: Equity, Access and Opportunity. We’ve affirmed that vision statement each year, adjusting the goals that support this vision along the way (https://ces.lnsd.org/community/school-board/goals). With today’s public health and economic climates, now more than ever we need to proactively support efforts to meet our goals: Quality educational programming, the wellbeing of students and staff, the increased nutritional needs of students, attracting a top-rate staff to work in a top-rate facility, fostering a caring community of teachers and learners. And we must do it all while responsibly managing the fiscal impact on taxpayers.
In my tenure on the CES Board, I don’t believe that I’ve seen the headwinds that we’re now experiencing. Federal Covid funds that aided recovery the past couple years will eventually run out. Fortunately, last year at Town Meeting, voters wisely approved setting surplus revenue aside to help support recovery efforts. This will help the school phase out those supports that are no longer needed while preventing the abrupt interruption of those that are needed for the short term.
Another significant headwind comes from tax rate related decisions that are made in Montpelier. Each year the State forecasts expected changes in statewide education spending (+8.52% for FY24), equalized pupils (-1.08% for FY24), and cost per equalized pupils (+9.7% FY24). CES tracks below those averages (+7.56%, -1.32%, +8.98% respectively). The VT Tax Department has several knobs they can use to adjust overall tax revenue to meet statewide education spending demands (https://youtu.be/cVYTmuxUOdQ). With the recent real estate market volatility, Cambridge properties are considered undervalued, lowering the CLA. Future changes to equalized pupil calculations will decrease that number in Cambridge. Both of these factors push tax rates up.
Additional pressures on the state education fund include an expected commitment to the Universal Meals program, a change in the distribution of Federal grants to the underfunded State Teachers Retirement Fund and expected double-digit increases in health and property insurance. And to top it all off, there is the added pressure from general inflation of the cost of materials, food, and fuel.
This brings us back to our vision and goals, and as a community our commitment to achieving them. We’ve taken proactive steps to minimize the tax impact to the best of our ability through use of reserves, careful consideration of budget commitments, and staying below the expected growth in state educational spending. Looking back at the past 3 years, I believe we made the best of a difficult situation given our options. Emerging from Covid, we need to continue the positive momentum of recovery, to pursue higher standards of education. Educating our youth is an investment in the future of Vermont. The CES Board is grateful for the community’s wisdom in supporting that investment.
Chair, CES Board of Directors