School Board's 2024 Priorities

Sue Ceglowski, Executive Director of the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA), welcomed the Senate Education Committee back to Montpelier on Thursday and shared her organization’s priorities for 2024. She started by focusing on Act 29, the School Safety law, which required school districts to adopt policies on access control and visitor management by August 1st, 2023. However, the Agency of Education (AOE) its guidance in September, and the VSBA worked with the AOE to align their model policy with the revised guidance.

She noted that the deadline for schools to establish their Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams (BTATs) is July 1, 2025. There will be opportunities for training and technical support between now and then. It was noted that the rollout of the school safety policy was not smooth. Many districts didn't have the policies and procedures for the behavioral threat teams, and the dates kept getting pushed further out.

A major concern for the VSBA was the sunsetting of federal covid relief funds. Inflation, increased costs of health benefits for School Employees, increasing staff to student ratios, school facility needs, and Act 127 have combined, according to Ceglowski, to make this a “very challenging budgeting year” for school boards.

She noted that districts received “unprecedented” federal relief funds due to the pandemic, but those funds are ending abruptly this year (in September). She admitted that these funds were were used to increase pay scales in order for districts to attract employees.

NOTE: This theme came up in the VT-NEA testimony as well, and it points to mismanagement by school districts if they used one-time monies for ongoing expenses. The state should not be rewarding this behavior.

She also pointed to the increasing costs of health benefits for school employees as a budgetary pressure, along with increasing staff to student ratios. She believes that current negotiations process has not been successful in slowing the rate of growth of the cost of school employee health benefits.

However, the biggest pressures on school budgets are from universal meals, which did not receive a dedicated funding source when the Legislature passed the mandate last year. This means that school budgets had to pick up this cost.

Chairman Campion asked her to give them a sense of some of the things that school boards spent one-time money on. Ceglowski pointed to the hiring of new employees, negotiating increases in salaries, and investing in new technologies, as well as facility expansions or renovations, that might have caused ongoing increased costs.

She also mentioned that school districts have been facing challenges in determining the impact of their budgets because the Long-Term Weighted Daily Membership (LWDM)[1] numbers have not been provided yet. The Common Level of Appraisal (CLA)[2] numbers also just came out Tuesday night, and so school districts are now reviewing their budgets.

When asked about potential cost-saving measures that school boards could implement, Ceglowski was not prepared to offer any recommendations.


[1] LWDM is a calculation used to determine a stabilized average daily membership (student count) number that can be used for tax purposes.

[2] CLA is a mechanism that is used to adjust property tax rates to compensate for property value changes that may have occurred since the last district-wide re-assessment.

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