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.
PLEASE VOTE MARCH 5TH!
February 26, 2024 Annual Meeting Video Clips (full length video link above)
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.
Superintendent Slate Valley School District
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.
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:
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
Establish Community Engagement, Service, and Partnerships by providing valuable, relevant, engaging and inclusive learning experiences for a global economy
Proactively Manage Productive School Environments continuing fiscal accountability for operational efficiencies and the alignment of human, financial, and physical resources throughout the District
Maintain a focus on recruiting, developing, and retaining exemplary educators and leveraging their expertise throughout the district.
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.