December 11th, 2009

Burlington School Board: The Painful Cuts

by Philip Baruth

Don’t ordinarily write much about life as a School Commissioner on the Burlington School Board. Because let’s face it: for most of VDB’s readership, it’s either patently irrelevant or painfully boring, or both at once. Still, as a window into the state of the economy it’s worth taking a very quick look at the budget we just put together on the Finance Committee, and then approved through the full Board.

It was a year of very painful cuts: we cut teachers, and behavioral specialists, and parent involvement coordinators, and athletics. We cut supply budgets, and administrative positions. We cut things we swore we’d never cut. We cut a total of $1.24 million out of existing programs and services. We cut so much that everyone on the Finance Committee felt queasy, and said so.

Even so, once health care spending and other numbers out of the Board’s control are figured in, we’ll need to ask the voters for an increase of 3.6% next year.

And although that increase is tiny compared to the increases of the last five years, it’s fair to say that some taxpayers in Burlington will be prepared to vote down any increase of any size. A harbringer of the coming state budget debate, and, not incidentally, the way the 2010 midterm elections will be fought out nationwide.

In short, there is light at the end of the economic tunnel. But for now, it only serves to illuminate the muddy, bloody ground we’ll need to cover to get there.