Home Columns Opinion: MRPS Budget Balances School Improvements with Affordability

Opinion: MRPS Budget Balances School Improvements with Affordability

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When COVID-19 upended our lives last spring, it put into sharp focus the critical importance of our public schools to our communities. At the same time, the pandemic has caused financial hardship and difficulty for many of our neighbors. The need to deliver an excellent education to our kids and the need to consider its affordability have both never been greater. 

In the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools, the administration and board of directors have sought to balance those two needs. The budget that we will present to voters on Town Meeting Day — March 2 — strengthens instruction and student supports, fairly compensates our dedicated educators and staff, and makes necessary investments in school infrastructure. 

This budget is also a responsible one. Total education spending amounts to $21,660,015 across the district, which represents an annual increase of 2 percent. The increase is less than the state-projected rate of inflation, and it includes both ballot articles for operations and the district’s capital reserve fund, which helps our district to improve buildings and grounds without incurring debt. 
We project that total student enrollment at MRPS will continue to increase next school year. This continued increase requires investment and growth, but it also helps to provide value through economies of scale. 
The per-student cost of education that impacts residential tax rates is based on a statutory “equalized” pupil calculation that the state has not yet finalized. With that in mind, equalized per-pupil spending is expected to increase 2.6 percent, which equates to $17,367 per equalized pupil. 
Compared with other Vermont districts, Montpelier’s per-pupil spending has recently ranked in the middle — roughly at the median. The hourly cost of educating a student in Montpelier is estimated at $13.94. That is based on a typical 178 student-day calendar and does not include the range of after-school and additional co-curricular programs our district offers to students and families.

The estimated tax impact of next year’s budget for Montpelier residents features an increase of 3.1 percent. The estimated tax impact for Roxbury residents is a decrease of 8.5 percent. These rates are preliminary and will not be finalized until the legislature and governor have approved the Property Dollar Yield — a key factor in determining tax rates around the state. The main reason these rates differ is that the state adjusts property tax rates to account for shifts in fair market value. Properties in Montpelier are selling for well above their listed values, and that is not the case in Roxbury.  

We are fortunate to live in a community that so deeply values our schools. This budget will provide our teachers, staff, and administrators with the resources to support the needs of all students. Examples of that investment include integrating technology across the district, coaching on the intersection of social and emotional learning and academic instruction, and increased health education staffing. This budget will enhance transition services for students with special needs and focus resources to improve literacy. The MRPS is a district that prizes and invests in the leadership of teachers and staff to provide high-quality instruction in every classroom. 

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For more on next year’s budget, we encourage Montpelier and Roxbury residents to review the materials online at mrpsvt.org/budget. We also invite you to join us at the March 1 informational hearing on the budget. We will provide interpretation to those who need it. More information, including how to attend and request interpretation, will be available soon on the website. 

We want to thank Superintendent Libby Bonesteel, Business Manager Grant Geisler, and the entire administration for their work on this budget, their leadership, and their dedication to the community. We also want to thank the extraordinary teachers, staff, and students of MRPS for your outstanding efforts and incredible work in the face of unprecedented challenges. Finally, thank you to the Montpelier and Roxbury communities at large for your consistent support and contributions to our communities’ schools. 

-Andrew Stein and Jim Murphy, Vice Chair and Chair of the MRPS Board of School Directors.

For questions, please contact us at andrewstein@mpsvt.org and jimmurphy@mpsvt.org.