FY25 Budget

Slate Valley Unified Union School District is committed to maintaining a high level of transparency in the development and management of our school budget. We believe that open communication and accountability are essential to fostering trust within our community. The school board recognizes the importance of providing clear and accessible information about their budgetary decisions. Please use this page as a resource to better understand the FY25 School Budget.

Results of FY25 3rd Budget Vote: May 9, 2024

YES 798 NO 891

Slate Valley 4th Budget Vote Resources

Estimated Tax Rates

Revised FY25 Proposed Budget Information for May 30th Vote

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Cover of 3rd Revised Annual Report

Updated Pages from the 3nd Revised FY25 Proposed Budget are Below- Click on the "+" to Open

Message from Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell:

On May 9th, the SVUUSD FY25 budget once again failed. While this budget was defeated, it was by a much narrower margin than in the previous two votes. During the recent school board meeting on May 13th, the board decided to schedule a revote on this budget for May 30th, with an informational meeting set for May 29th at 6:30 PM in the band room at Fair Haven Union Middle and High School. The proposed budget for this vote is the same as the one voted on May 9th. 

The majority of the school board believes that Slate Valley's current budget is already quite low, and they are striving to ensure adequate resources for some of the state's most needy students. The majority board feels further cuts simply aren't feasible. Moreover, the vast majority of attendees at the informational meetings voiced non support for additional cuts, as our district already spends relatively little compared to others in the state. It is also worth noting that any cuts would have minimal impact on further reducing local taxes due to the complex statewide funding system. The rhetoric that there is a 20% increase in education taxes is simply not true for our district. All of our towns are under 20% and in fact Fair Haven is at 5.5% with the current proposed yield. All of our towns, except for Benson, will have a tax rate increase that is less than the average tax rate increase of 13.8% that was cited by the Governor, the press and others in Montpelier. 

Our main focus will always be to provide the best education possible for our students while also maintaining financial responsibility. But please keep in mind the challenge before us in planning for the upcoming year without a budget. Summer services, except those for special education as mandated, are uncertain and may need to be canceled.

We thank our community for staying engaged and plead for them to please get out and vote May 30th.  Absentee ballots are available in all towns and can be requested from your town clerk.

Sincerely,
Brooke Olsen-Farrell, Superintendent

SVUUSD FY25 Budget Presentation - Part 1

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SVUUSD FY25 Budget Presentation - Part 2

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Budget Reductions from Initial March Vote

$120,000 - 3 FTE (Full Time Employees) Instructional Assistants
$30,000 - Removed elementary school late buses - no longer needed
$61,500 - Funding for a SAP Counselor

$211,500 Total Reduction

Slate Valley School Board Members

Revised FY25 Proposed Budget for May 9th Vote

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3rd Budget Vote Revised Annual Report

Updated Pages from the 2nd Revised FY25 Proposed Budget are Below- Click on the "+" to Open

Results of FY25 Budget ReVote: April 11, 2024

YES 544 NO 947

Message from Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell:

Dear Slate Valley,
We hope you're doing well. We wanted to give you an update on the school budget revote, unfortunately, it didn't pass. The vote count was 544 in favor and 947 against. We understand this news may be disappointing for some, as it is for us, considering there are factors beyond our control.

Our main focus remains on providing the best education for our students while being financially responsible. We're actively seeking alternative solutions following this second budget failure. The third budget vote is likely to happen in May. We encourage open dialogue and welcome any suggestions or concerns you may have. We'll soon hold meetings to discuss the failure, gather feedback, and explore options moving forward. Your participation and engagement are vital during this process.

Thank you for your ongoing support, and we're eager to work together to tackle this challenge.

Sincerely, Brooke Olsen-Farrell, Superintendent

Revised FY25 Proposed Budget Explained

Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell talks with School Board Chair, Patricia Beaumont, and Board Finance Committee Chair, Glen Cousineau about the revised FY25 Budget Proposal that will be put forth to voters on April 11, 2024. They discuss various topics from why the board chose this revised budget option, and they attempt to answer some common questions being asked from the community.

Message from School Board Chair,

Pati Beaumont

March 20, 2024

Dear Slate Valley Unified Union School District Community Members,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 2,472 individuals who exercised their right to vote on March 5th. As you know, the Slate Valley Unified Union School District’s budget was defeated by 464 votes, one of the largest margins in recent history.  Members of the school board have tried to gather information as to why this budget proposal, with an increase of less than one percent in spending per weighted pupil, and an equalized tax rate decrease of less than one percent, was unacceptable to 59% of our voters.

I will begin by providing some factual information about our FY25 proposed budget:

  • Our per pupil spending is $11,320.94 which is an increase of 0.20% from last year.  This is the second lowest in the region.  

  • Our average student teacher ratio is 16:1, which is consistent with other regional schools. The maximum class size in accordance with the Vermont State Educational Quality Standards is 20 students for grades K-3 and 25 for grades 4-12. Increasing class size is a challenge facing all rural schools. For example, in one of our schools, three grades have less than ten students. This obviously brings our average down. Also, we have a few K-2 grades with a total of 23-28 students in each. These numbers are too great for one class, so two classes are created, bringing class size down to 11-14 students, and now below the allowed maximum.  

  • Last year, only 19% of the expenditure budget, roughly $5.3 million, was paid for by local district taxpayers.  The remainder was paid by state and federal funds along with non-resident taxpayers.

  • The reason we do not mail a copy of our 36 page budget to all taxpayers is because it costs about $20,000 to do this mass mailing.  If you would like detailed information, please visit our website at https://www.slatevalleyunified.org/o/svusd/page/budget, or call Slate Valley’s executive assistant, Lisa Bowen (802-265-2556), to have a copy mailed to you.

Some people think that by voting down the budget, we are sending an effective message to Montpelier.  This idea is flawed for many reasons:

  • First, 1/3 of the budgets presented on March 5th were voted down, but there were districts that did not vote in March.  So 29 of 93 budgets that were warned failed.  22 were rescheduled. It is likely that many  budgets will pass after a second vote, thus not raising significant concerns with our legislature. A ‘no’ vote from SVUUSD taxpayers will not result in changes for this year, but it will send a negative message to our district students and staff.

  • If you are concerned about student test scores and the quality of their education, continuing to vote down our budget will force us to reduce resources which are necessary to increase test scores.

  • A ‘no’ vote on the budget will have no substantial impact on your property taxes. Your taxes are rising due to a flawed educational funding formula. It is a very complicated formula, but one of the key components is the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) on your property.  Due to a number of factors, the CLA for all the SVUUSD towns is much less than it should be.  (To meet my goal of trying to explain things as simply as possible, I will not go into details about this statement.  Please refer to the budget presentation given during our informational meeting on 3/04/24.)  All your educational tax dollars become part of the pool of money at the state level that is then distributed to all schools in the state.

  • Budgets start to be developed about a year before they are presented to the voters.  Therefore, the budget contains many contractual obligations (teacher’s contracts, fuel costs, insurances, etc.), as well as some forecasting (needs for new students moving into the district, building maintenance, etc.).  Obviously, we need to pay our financial obligations, as would any organization, or household.  When a budget vote fails, it is necessary to continue revising the budget for a revote. 

  • What happens if we continue to vote down our budget?  By law, the school board must persist in developing a budget approved by the taxpayers.  If the budget is not passed by July 1, 2024, we will be allowed to borrow money to meet our financial obligations. The law allows us to borrow up to “87% of our last passed budget” (for which we also must pay interest) which would result in a 21% shortfall from the currently proposed budget for FY25.  

  • School spending mirrors local spending.  It is exactly what households and businesses in our community are experiencing, an increase in food costs, fuel, rent and utilities.  We do not have solutions to the rising costs throughout our state.  They are out of our control.  So we will continue to revise our budget and bring it to the voters until a budget is passed.  Also, each time we go through the voting process, it costs us thousands of dollars that is not allocated in our budget.

Act 127 allowed us to increase our budget by $3,000,000 without affecting the tax rate.  These funds were to be reinvested to help our students achieve the desired outcome, to “level the playing field”.  This money was not intended to reduce the tax rate.  At this point, any further reductions to our budget will mean that this money is returned to Montpelier, where it will be allocated to other schools in the state.  We will lose this money, and it will not significantly reduce our taxes.

On 3/18/24, the school board voted to reduce our budget from $31,021,635, to $30,871,635 , eliminating three Instructional Assistant positions (due to students moving out of the district during the 2024-2025 school year) and a late bus run.  We will bring this revised budget to you for a vote on Thursday, April 11th.  

It is evident that the Vermont educational funding system requires reform. The cost of educating students in our state ranks second only to New York, necessitating a stronger voice in Montpelier. We urge you to contact our legislators and convey that our taxes are too high, despite attempts at relief through current legislation. These individuals have the power to enact changes, unlike your local school board. (Rutland District: Representative William Canfield wcanfield@leg.state.vt.us, Senator Brian Collamore bcollamore@leg.state.vt.us, Representative Jarrod Sammis jsammis@leg.state.vt.us, Senator David Weeks, dweeks@leg.state.vt.us, Senator Terry Williams tkwilliams@leg.state.vt.us, Addison District: Representative Joseph Andriano jandriano@leg.state.vt.us, Senator Christopher Bray cbray@leg.state.vt.us, Senator Ruth Hardy rhardy@leg.state.vt.us).

Your school board members are committed to ensuring that each and every student in the SVUUSD has the best education possible, while being fiscally frugal.  We love our community and want to support each and every one of you! We truly hope that if you are uncomfortable supporting this budget you will reach out to any of your school board members with your constructive thoughts about managing this increase.

Thank you,
Pati Beaumont
Slate Valley Unified Union School Board Chairperson

Resources

Revised FY25 Proposed Budget Information for April 11th Vote

Revised FY25 Proposed Budget

Click on the Cover Image Below to View the Entire Report

Updated Pages from the Revised FY25 Proposed Budget are Below - Click on the "+" to Open

Slate Valley School Board Members

Message from Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell

March 6, 2024

Dear Slate Valley,

I hope this message finds you well. We want to take a moment to update you on the recent school budget vote that, unfortunately, did not pass. The vote was 1004 yes and 1468 no. The article transferring money to a reserve account was successful. We understand that this news may be disappointing for some of you, as it is for us.

The proposed budget aimed to address critical needs and enhance the overall educational experience for our students. We appreciate the thoughtful consideration that went into the decision-making process by those who participated in the vote. While the outcome was not what we had hoped for, we respect and acknowledge the democratic nature of our community.

Our top priority remains providing the best possible education for our students, and we will continue to work diligently to find alternative solutions in light of the budget failure. This setback challenges us to reassess our priorities and explore creative ways to meet the needs of our students within the financial constraints we face.

We encourage open dialogue and welcome any suggestions or concerns you may have. Your input is invaluable, and we believe that together, as a united community, we can navigate through these challenges and find solutions that benefit our students and the entire school community.

In the coming weeks, we will hold board meetings to discuss the budget failure, gather feedback, and explore potential options moving forward. Your participation and engagement are crucial during this process, and we encourage you to attend these meetings to share your thoughts and ideas.

We remain committed to transparency and collaboration as we work towards a shared goal of providing an exceptional education for our students. Thank you for your ongoing support, and we look forward to working together to overcome this challenge.

Sincerely,
Brooke Olsen-Farrell

February 26, 2024 Annual Meeting Video Clips & Full Length Recording

Message from Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell

I am proud to serve in a state that believes that every single child deserves an excellent education, regardless of their background or zip code. So, it’s been unsettling to see some using Act 127, an act meant to promote equity in our educational funding formula, as a scapegoat for school budgetary pressures that all districts are dealing with. It is hard to understand how one can support the goals of equity while also advocating for the undoing of Act 127. These are contradictory positions.

Let's be clear: Act 127 was a necessary step to bridge the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots." In Vermont, every child is important and deserves equal educational opportunities. However, this was not being practiced in our education funding before Act 127, as wealthy towns with ample resources were better positioned to provide their children with a better education than high-poverty, rural and more diverse districts.  For example, our district, Slate Valley, has always been fiscally conservative.  Our practice has been zero-based budgeting.  We start each year by looking at precisely what we will need to accomplish our goals for the coming year.  We budget without building in contingencies.  Year after year, we return the majority of our prior year surplus to our taxpayers to reduce tax rates.  At this time, our Capital Reserve Account has been depleted, and we do not have any other reserve accounts.  Despite this conservative approach, our budget often does not pass on the first vote, and if it does pass it is by a very slim margin. 

Act 127 addresses this challenge by offering a data-driven solution to decades of underfunding of schools in Vermont’s most diverse, rural and high-poverty communities.  Based on the most recent Title I poverty rate comparison data provided by the Agency of Education, Slate Valley is ranked as having the 5th highest student poverty in the state.  There has been a sharp increase in student poverty within Slate Valley over the last 6 years.  Act 127, was designed to help districts like Slate Valley deal with the increased need for services for our disadvantaged students.  It aligns with our constitutional commitment to provide a high-quality education to every child in Vermont, regardless of their zip code.

Our school districts are facing unprecedented financial challenges this year. But Act 127 was not the genesis of these challenges. Instead, it emerged as a clear response to the urgent need for a more just school funding system. A funding system which, up until then, rewarded wealthier communities with better schools. Addressing the very real and critical budgetary pressures on school districts should not include undoing progress and moving backwards on equity.  There are districts that will likely continue to pass their budgets despite large increases in tax rates, while districts like ours, who were supposed to be advantaged, may end up with less resources than we have this school year; further increasing the inequities in the public education system.

It's imperative to acknowledge that many of the issues driving up school budgets were at play long before Act 127 went into effect. Factors such as increasing health insurance expenses, staffing shortages, unfunded legislative mandates, facility maintenance burdens and the complexities of special education funding have continually strained the financial resources of schools.

Act 127 represents a significant step forward in building a fairer and more equitable education system in Vermont. It acknowledges the historical disparities in education funding and seeks to rectify them. We should not move backwards on equity in an attempt to address fiscal pressures unrelated to Act 127. That is not what the Vermont I know stands for. By keeping our focus on the best interests of our children and families, we can work together to ensure that Act 127 serves as a positive force for change in Vermont's education landscape.

Brooke Olsen-Farrell
Superintendent Slate Valley School District

Official Warning

Official Warning Page 2

Slate Valley Budget Development Guide

What We Do (Mission):
We are dedicated to the academic excellence of every student by empowering them with the means for the successful completion of standards, and by challenging them to be productive members of our global society. We are committed to a comprehensive system of support to ensure each student has the opportunity to develop the skills and talents necessary for college and career readiness.

Where We Want to Be (Vision):
All students are engaged in academically-rigorous, real, hands-on, individualized learning that is supported or accelerated to ensure that they meet or exceed standards.

What We Believe In:

  • In providing for the holistic education of every child so that they feel connected, safe, and respected in order to ensure student achievement.

  • In providing a challenging and engaging atmosphere in which all members of the school community can learn and grow.

  • In providing opportunities for inquiry, research, global collaboration, and communication through hands-on learning.

  • In providing varied, rich, and personalized opportunities for learning.

  • In providing experiences to develop critical thinking skills that allow students to become engaged participants in their school communities and beyond.

What We Want to Accomplish:
GOALS

  1. Develop College and Career Readiness by ensuring equal access to academically-rigorous curriculum and instruction, closely monitoring individual student progress, and attending to the social and emotional needs of all students

  2. Establish Community Engagement, Service, and Partnerships by providing valuable, relevant, engaging and inclusive learning experiences for a global economy

  3. Proactively Manage Productive School Environments continuing fiscal accountability for operational efficiencies and the alignment of human, financial, and physical resources throughout the District

  4. Maintain a focus on recruiting, developing, and retaining exemplary educators and leveraging their expertise throughout the district.

Background:
In Slate Valley we continue to be committed to a transparent and equitable budget process.  We look for ways to improve our transparency each year with an eye towards our district priorities of Community Engagement, College/Career Readiness, Staff Retention/Recruitment, and Fiscal Accountability.  We want to ensure that all of our students have access to appropriate resources. 

Additionally, as a result of the pandemic schools have been faced with unprecedented challenges in the areas of attendance, learning recovery, infrastructure needs and staff retention.  Schools have received federal funding to deal with these challenges in the short term.  In Slate Valley we received approximately $7.27 million over 3 years to deal with urgent issues. Grant funding is coming to end, or decreasing, and many of the academic and behavioral intervention supports for students will be impacted.

View the complete FY25 Budget Development Guide.