Welcome to the Barre Schools! As we enter the most challenging budget season in our recent history, I want to help you understand the progress we’ve made in building a school district of which we can all be extremely proud. We continue to do more than nearly any other district with the dollars we have; and I hope we all agree that an investment in our schools is an investment in the future of our community.
This is my fifth report as the Superintendent of Schools in Barre, but my first as the Superintendent of the newly formed Barre Unified Union School District (BUUSD). In our first year as a merged district, our operations have gone as smoothly as we could have possibly hoped. Our board has shown a commitment to work together for all our children and is embarking on an effort to define our vision, mission, and strategic goals as a merged district. We now operate under a single set of policies. Our administrators, teachers, and support staff have deepened the collaborative efforts that existed in our supervisory union structure, but now have fewer constraints as a single district.
Educating its students is one of the most important responsibilities of any community, and Barre – year after year – has met that responsibility in true ‘Barre Pride’ fashion. Unfortunately, the world is changing, and educating our students has become a costly endeavor. We have been fiscally responsible for so long, keeping our average spending increase over the past six years to only 3%, which includes this year’s 11% increase. We have always found a way to do more with the dollars we have, and while we will continue to do so, we are also faced with certain realities – many of them beyond our control – that we cannot ignore.
Between the impact of health care premium increases, a statewide negotiated health care cost-sharing settlement, Common Levels of Appraisal decreasing in the city & town, a slight student enrollment decrease of one percent, and negotiated wage increases, the combination of these increases puts us at an estimated increase as high as 16.3 cents, with none of this increase earmarked for new programs and services to directly benefit our students. These increases are almost entirely beyond our control.
To give you some perspective on our fiscal responsibility, the tax rate increases described above would put Education Spending per Equalized Pupil at $15,074 in Barre. This is still a whopping 12% below the FY21 predicted Vermont average of $17,133. In fact, if we proposed a budget that was equivalent to the predicted statewide average, we’d be asking you to spend an additional $4.9 million dollars. Even with this broad gap between our budget and the statewide average, we are still delivering the quality education that is going to send our community’s children on the right path to ensure success, all without spending an additional $4.9 million dollars to make it happen. We truly are doing more with the dollars we have.
While it is necessary to discuss the challenges of this year’s budget, I would much prefer to share the great features of our schools. To the right, you will see examples of cost-effective initiatives we have put in place for our students that we will go into in greater detail in this report.
I thank you for your support of our schools – and students – over the years, and for taking the time to carefully consider how doing so is an investment in the future of Barre.
Superintendent, Barre Unified Union School District