Voters Decide on 18.4 Million Dollar Budget

Ranny Tumbnail  ST. JOHNSBURY- Voters in the town of St. Johnsbury are being asked to approve a nearly one-million dollar increase in the school budget at this year's Town Meeting Day. The increase is due in part to a miscalculation in how many students will be attending 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.

"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," explained Superintendent Margaret Ranny-Bledsoe.


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 explained that there are strict laws in Vermont regarding residency and the schoolboard 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," said Bledsoe. "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 schoolboard 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," said Bledsoe.

The budget the schoolboard 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 schoolboard 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 $100,000 will see a jump in education property taxes of $53 and homes valued at $200,000 dollars would see a $71 increase.

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

This past Monday, there was an informational meeting held to give the public more details about how the money is being spread throughout the budget. There was no public comment regarding the budget during the meeting.

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