Education Cost Drivers - April 10, 2024

Chairwoman Cummings started off the Senate Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon by introducing three superintendents who were going to speak to them about cost drivers in the current budget cycle and things they could do long-term to reduce costs.

Mark Tucker (Superintendent, Caledonia Central Supervisory Union) identified inflation, such as salary increases, health care, and administrative costs as drivers for FY2025. The only spending he considered discretionary was their after-school program which was originally funded by ARPA dollars. Despite the 16.5% increase in (statewide negotiated) health care premiums that made up 10% of the increase, his districts are below the average spending increase and the property tax increase statewide. That is still a tough sell for voters when they are increasing spending less than 8% but still seeing double digit tax increases.

Mike Leichliter (Superintendent, Harwood Unified Union School District) also identified salary and benefits as well as special education. Their budget failed on town meeting day, but they are bringing a new budget back with $2M less in spending.

He encouraged the Committee to look at the statewide health care bargaining and whether or not that was “working as intended” to bring costs down. He was previously a superintendent in Lancaster Pennsylvania and had control over both salaries and benefits which allowed him to negotiate using both levers. In Vermont he only has control over salaries and health care is a fixed cost.

Meagan Roy (Superintendent, Washington Central Supervisory Union) called the problems in the current budget season “fairly intractable.” She wanted to pick up the thought about teacher contracts, saying that “we are where we are because we haven’t addressed some of these issues.” She pointed to class sizes as a key driving factor in the cost and staffing levels.

Tucker offered that 10-13% of his spending is mental health related. Senator Brock asked what might be driving some of the disparities between districts where they have identified significantly different rates of students who need support (even in districts that neighbor each other). Tucker pointed to childhood trauma and variations is socioeconomic status from one district to another.

All three superintendents identified a shortage of licensed teachers as a problem for them as older teachers age out and fewer entry-level teachers are available. They only receive 10 applicants for many open positions whereas a few years ago they might have received 30.

NOTE: All employers seem to be experiencing this as we have a workforce shortage that is impacting nearly every industry.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer Reduce Property Tax Burden


get updates