School Budget: 2019 Edition

It’s that time again, boys and girls! Time for approving a new school budget. Last year’s voting was blessedly non-confrontational, but on the theory of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I think it’s important to stay out in front of any negative messaging around the budget, especially when it’s as reasonable as this year’s proposal.

The biggest thing voters should focus on is the bottom line increase to local taxes, since that’s where the biggest amount of sound and fury has been generated from budget hawks in the past. For this budget, that increase is .27%. Please note the decimal. This is an increase of a quarter of a percent. In fact, 3 of the towns will actually see a decrease in taxes this year. Per the article in the Daily Bulldog:

Specifically, if the budget passed as proposed, Chesterville would see a $8,723 increase, or .83 percent; Farmington would see a $50,102 increase, or 1.05 percent; Industry would see a $8,695 increase, or .94 percent; New Sharon would see a decrease of $3,201, or a reduction of .31 percent; New Vineyard would see an increase of $21,846, or 2.94 percent; Starks would see an increase of $17,989, or 3.88 percent; Temple would see an increase of $7,347 or 1.73 percent; Vienna would see an increase of $8,559 or 1.19 percent; Weld would see a decrease of $27,352, a reduction of 5.22 percent; and Wilton would see a decrease of $56,657, or a reduction of 2.01 percent.

The budget changes for individual towns from year to year based on town valuation. Basically, the state calculates how much each town can bring in through taxes each year and then portions out how much each town owes for school funding accordingly. So if your town starts bringing in more money than it did in the past, it owes proportionately more for school funding. This makes sense. More taxes coming in means more people living in that area, which means more people able to contribute. If towns do better, they chip in more. If they do worse, they chip in less.

But this potentially opens up the budget to manipulative messaging. For example, you might hear someone say something like “The budget is going up $1.58 million AGAIN! That’s another 4.4%! When will these fat cat school administrators learn that ENOUGH is ENOUGH!??!” But that’s looking at the overall budget, not the local assessment. Overall, the district has 177 more students in it than three years ago. When the district gets bigger, it costs more to teach those students. Lucky for us, the state recognizes that, and so it gives the district more funds from the state level.

Of course, if you point that out to the strawman we’re arguing with, he’s quick to respond, “But local taxes are going up 3.88% in Starks and 2.94% in New Vineyard!” as if that proves you’re wrong, and that local portions are indeed rising.

Just remember: that argument has nothing to do with overall state budgets. That’s based on town valuation. So to respond to that, congratulate Starks and New Vineyard for having growing populations and property tax values. Huzzah!

Anyway.

My hope is this year will be non-contentious again. But the meeting to set the budget is this coming Tuesday (5/28) at 7pm at the high school. Come on out and vote YES to this ultra reasonable .27% increase for local tax payers. And if you hear any naysayers, try to get out in front of the messaging. Sure, the data can be manipulated to seem like it’s another big increase. But if you look at the real figures, there’s no getting around the fact this budget is more than reasonable.

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