Friday June 7, 2013

Vote no June 11 to the BSD 9.92 percent budget

Bennington School District administrators presented a great eye-opener for budget cut considerations on May 30. The reductions included: $161,354 - enhancement of ACORNS program, 9 students; $52,165 - SPED overtime; $66,541, just in case SPED paras; $66,556 - SPED facilitator, no student caseload.

This is a surprise because it was reported that the initial BSD’s 19 percent budget increase was due to a $1.45 million special education assessment from the Southern Vermont Supervisory Union and that "all special education costs are in the supervisory union budget and assessed to member districts." (BSD approves budget with 19 percent hike, Bennington Banner, Jan. 19, 2013). Does this mean not all SPED costs are from the SVSU assessment? Are some are added by the BSD, and above the requirements of law? The fiduciary responsibilities of the board’s financial services appear to be lacking.

Why did it take so long to shift purchases for a truck and mulching service to this year’s budget? What happened to checking estimation of fuel/heating costs or reducing the negotiated contracts discussed at the last meetings? Why do the cost estimates appear padded? No one has discussed using the contingency fund balance. Be proactive. Stop saying that the budget is too complicated to explain. It insults those who do understand and implies that the person explaining the budget doesn’t understand it enough. We need more transparency and budgets written in plain English. Here are some more considerations for cost reduction:

1. Shuffle grades among schools. This suggestion was previously offered by Principal MacKenzie-King. (see: BSD considers shuffling grades among schools, Bennington Banner, Oct. 5, 2012). Regroup students in the BSD to fit this reorganization model: K-2 in one school, 3-5 in the other schools. It would streamline and pool the required resources for each grade level with less duplication in each school, condense the classes and save the district money.

2. Increase grade 3-5 class sizes. Lower numbers and more money has not increase achievement in this district. Currently the best research practices state that "feedback" increases student achievement. Just like coaching a blind person who is aiming at a target, constant feedback will assist them in hitting the goal.

3. Streamline the SPED program. Create a testing team for multiple school locations instead. They perform well, have more test reliability and IEPs can be written without bias. Using SPED teachers for testing, scheduling and writing IEPs while giving students subs or having para-educators teach is not the best educational choice for students.

4. Stop emphasizing that students are poor. Emphasize that education helps to overcome poverty and that theses students can make a different in their own lives and the lives of others. Support programs that generate a "can-do" attitude. Eliminate the band-aid programs.

Tell the BSD board that we want a basic budget with more transparency. Vote "No" on June 11.

JACKIE KELLY

Bennington

Support the BSD budget

We are writing this letter asking the Bennington Voters to support the Bennington School District’s (BSD) 2013/2014 budget. The increase has been reduced by over $1 million since the original vote on March 5.

There are increases in health insurance 10 percent, teacher wages 3 percent, and utilities, while at the same time significant decreases in federal aid to schools and Title dollars which makes for the 9. 9 percent increase in the budget.

The BSD has sent out Reduction in Force (RIF) letters to 8 classroom teachers and 12 special education teachers in case the budget does not pass which would be catastrophic for the children of Bennington.

The latest budget would increase a home assessed at $100,000 tax bill by $53 per year or $1 per week. Please vote on Tuesday, June 11 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bennington Fire House.

KEN SWIERAD, BSD Chair

GEORGE SLEEMAN, BSD Vice Chair

Bennington

Support the BSD budget on Tuesday, June 11

I am voting in favor of the BSD school budget. The BSD board members and school administrators have made the tough decisions that we asked them to make. Their proposed budget provides a quality education despite rising needs and reduced resources. Raising taxes impacts us all but so would an underfunded school system. It is time for our community to step forward and vote "yes" on this important issue. Voting yes will demonstrate commitment to our children and in turn, to Bennington’s success.

RACHEL PAYNE

Bennington

Vote ‘yes’ on June 11

As a member of BSD Board of Directors, I am asking for a "Yes" vote on the June 11 Budget Vote.

I am asking for the children of our town, for them to get the education they need, the one they deserve, to go ahead in life and succeed in doing whatever they can dream to be.

Education is what is going to make the next generation and shouldn’t we give them the tools they need in order to reach into the future and make learning a valuable tool in each and every life.

Please vote "Yes", not for buildings, but for our children and their future.

See you at the polls on June 11.

MARIE DECOFF

Bennington