St. J School Board $18 Million Dollar Budget

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Ranny TumbnailST. JOHNSBURY- The St. Johnsbury school-board is proposing a school district budget increase of nearly one million dollars this year. The inrease is due in part to a miscalculation in how many students will be attending the Saint Johnsbury Academy in the Fall of 2018, and the 42 unanticipated student tuitions they've had to pay out that have resulted in $710,000 in expenditures.



There are residency laws in the state of Vermont and Superintendent Margaret Ranny Bledsoe explained that "We're a choice town, so we pay tuition for students to go to high school. The tuitions are relatively high. We pay over $17,000 for a regular education student." Students requiring special education assistance can exceed the $17,000 tuition, and the town is responsible for paying those costs. There has been a proposed increase of almost $800,000 to the high school tuition budget.

Bledsoe says there are strict laws in Vermont regarding residency, and the school board is trying to emphasize those laws and stay true to the statute. "There are residency laws, and the basis of those laws is that you must have the intent to remain, and you can only have one residence at a time to be a resident. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure that were not paying for students who aren't residents in the same way we have the responsibility to pay for students who are."

Bledsoe says that the school-board understands that the high schools they serve are popular, and parents want their children to receive the best education possible. But the school board still has to apply the statute. Out of the 42 students the board has paid for this year, there were three individual investigations that occurred. "One family actually moved back to Massachusetts, and we've denied in two cases. One has been appealed and the Secretary of Education upheld our decision, and one we denied and there hasn't been any next steps taken." Bledsoe says that although the school-board supports the students and kids in the town since it's the law those tough questions must be asked.

Going forward to Town Meeting Day, the budget the school board is proposing to the taxpayers is $18,419,000. This number is up by $703,952 since last year and is due entirely to additional tuitions.

The budget outline from the school-board says there will be an increase in the education taxes which is to be paid for by homeowners. If the taxpayers do vote to adopt the budget it will mean a home valued at $150,000 will see a jump in education property taxes of $53.

Going into Town Meeting Day, Bledsoe said, "I think overall the town supports the idea that families come to our town and they spend here, and they live here, they pay taxes on homes and that it's good for the town. I think the town essentially supports new folks coming in, it's just that the bill has to be paid."