Chairwoman Kornheiser started the conversation by asking the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) to walk through the policy options available to the Committee to mitigate the impacts of the project property tax increase.
JFO walked through a document titled ‘Understanding the Levers in Vermont’s Education Fund’. It was highlighted that inflation adjusted overall education spending has increased slightly since 2005, but due to the decline in students this has led to exponential growth in spending per student (which is what tax rates are based on).
It was also pointed out that Vermont is now second in the country for spending per student, increasing from 8th, while scores have dropped compared to other states. Previous mechanisms to contain costs included reforming special education, excess spending penalties, and the merging of school districts.
One of the Reps asked if Act 46 had realized any cost savings. It was noted that the analysis for those numbers has not been done.
The cost-containment JFO flagged for the Committee included:
- Staff reductions
- 80% of education cost is staff.
- Vermont has the fewest students per staff in the country with 4.4 students for every staff member.
- Further merging
- The 2016 Picus report suggested consolidating school buildings.
- Another option would be to consolidate more school services.
- Reinstating Excess Spending Penalty
- Implementing spending caps
- Moving education spending decisions to a statewide level.