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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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S.263

Introduced by Senator Coppenrath of Caledonia District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Education; school district budget; education spending; cost per equalized pupil

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to change the method by which the electorate votes on school budgets from one based on the district’s total education budget to one based on the cost per equalized pupil.  The bill would require that the ballot provide seven spending options from which to choose and a method for determining the spending option of which a majority of the voters approve.

AN ACT RELATING TO APPROVING SCHOOL BUDGETS BASED ON THE COST PER EQUALIZED PUPIL

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  16 V.S.A. § 428 is amended to read:

§ 428.  BUDGET TO BE VOTED

(a)  At each annual town school district meeting, the electorate shall vote such sums of money as it deems necessary for the support of schools pursuant to the provisions of subdivision 563(11) of this title.  If such sums are not approved or acted upon at the annual meeting, the electorate shall vote such questions at a duly warned special school district meeting.  A district may vote money necessary for the support of schools therein to the end of the full school year next ensuing.

(b)  If the electorate of a school district votes for its budget by Australian ballot, it shall do so pursuant to the provisions of section 563(11) of this title and using ballot language jointly developed by the commissioner and secretary of state and adopted by the commissioner, by rule.

Sec. 2.  16 V.S.A. § 563 is amended to read:

§ 563.  POWERS OF SCHOOL BOARDS; FORM OF WARNING AND

            VOTE IF BUDGET EXCEEDS BENCHMARK AND DISTRICT

            SPENDING IS ABOVE AVERAGE

The school board of a school district, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law:

* * *

(11)(A)  Shall prepare and distribute annually a proposed budget for the next school year according to such major categories as may from time to time be prescribed by the commissioner and pursuant to the provisions required by subdivision (B) of this subdivision (11).

(B)  If the proposed budget contains education spending in excess of the Maximum Inflation Amount, and the district’s education spending per equalized pupil in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed was in excess of the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil in that same fiscal year, as determined by the commissioner of education, then in lieu of any other statutory or charter form of budget adoption or budget vote, the board shall present the budget to the voters by means of a divided question, in the form of vote provided in subdivision (ii) of this subdivision.

(i)  “Maximum Inflation Amount” in this section means:

(I)  the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil, as defined in subdivision 4001(6) of this title, in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed, as determined by the commissioner of education, multiplied by the New England Economic Project Cumulative Price Index percentage change, as of November 15 preceding distribution of the proposed budget, for state and local government purchases of goods and services for the fiscal year for which the budget is proposed, plus one percentage point; plus the district’s education spending per equalized pupil in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed, as determined by the commissioner of education;

(II)  multiplied by the higher of the following amounts as determined by the commissioner of education: (aa) the district’s equalized pupil count in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed; or (bb) the district’s equalized pupil count in the fiscal year for which the budget is proposed.

(ii)  Form of vote.

“School Budget Question #1:

Shall the voters of the School District approve a total budget in the amount of [$       ], which includes the Maximum Inflation Amount of education spending?

“School Budget Question #2:

If Question #1 is approved, shall the voters of the School District also approve additional education spending of [$       ]?”

(i)  Notwithstanding any other statutory or charter provision to the contrary, the warning for the budget vote shall include information substantially as follows:

The voters of this school district shall determine and approve an amount to educate the District’s pupils for the fiscal year beginning July 1, ______.  

In the current fiscal year ending June 30,___, the school district will have expended a total of $________ to educate the district’s pupils, representing $_______ per pupil based on the average number of pupils enrolled in the district during the academic year (the “average daily membership” pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 4001).  When the number of pupils in the district was adjusted (or “equalized”) according to state law to reflect the relative costs of educating pupils in prekindergarten, elementary school, and secondary school, pupils from economically deprived backgrounds, and pupils for whom English is not a primary language, then the district is considered to have educated _____ “equalized pupils” at a cost of $________each. 

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, _____, the district school board projects that the district will have an average enrollment of _______ pupils, which will translate into approximately _____ equalized pupils.  The school board recommends that district education spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1, ______ be in an amount equal to $_____ per equalized pupil.  This recommended amount represents an [increase/decrease] of      ___ percent [above/below] the current fiscal year’s district expenditure per equalized pupil.

Each year, the legislature establishes a base education payment for the ensuing fiscal year, which has been set as $_____ per equalized pupil for the ensuing fiscal year.  Therefore, the district school board’s recommendation of $_____ per equalized pupil is _____ percent higher than the base education payment established for the same year. 

The homestead education property tax paid by property owners is based on the district’s spending per equalized pupil.  If the voters approve the school board’s recommendation of $_____ per equalized pupil, then homestead property taxpayers in the district will pay an adjusted homestead education property tax rate of _______percent of the homestead property tax base rate established by the legislature ($____).  The tax rate for our district would thus be $_________.  Therefore, when district voters approve an amount of education spending per equalized pupil, that amount determines both the taxpayers’ adjusted homestead education property tax rate and the total amount of revenues that rate will raise on the grand list.

When voting on district education spending for the ensuing fiscal year, voters will be asked to choose one of seven listed options of spending per equalized pupil.  The first option, which is the lowest amount, is the base education payment established by the legislature ($___________).  The fourth option, the middle amount, is the cost per equalized pupil recommended by the district school board ($_________).  The seventh option, which is the highest amount ($______), is approximately as many dollars greater than the board’s recommendation as the base education payment is less than it.  Two of the remaining four options are spaced below the board’s recommendation (option 4) and two are above it. 

Each voter will be asked to vote for one of the seven options of potential district education spending.  By calculating downward from the total votes cast for the highest spending option, the level of district education spending per equalized pupil shall be determined as the point at which 51 percent of the voters have chosen to pay at least that amount.  

For example, assume 100 votes are cast for seven hypothetical spending options as follows:

1.  10 voters approve $8,210.00 (the hypothetical state base education payment amount)

2.  20 voters approve $8,700.00

3.  30 voters approve $9,200.00

4.  25 voters approve $9,700.00 (the hypothetical board recommendation)

5.  5 voters approve $10,200.00

6.  5 voters approve $10,700.00

7.  5 voters approve $11,200.00

Forty voters selected spending of at least $ 9,700.00 (options

4–7).  An additional 30 voters selected spending of at least $9,200.00 (option 3).  The approved amount of district education spending per equalized pupil would be set at $9,517.00 for the hypothetical fiscal year, which is determined by subtracting $183.00 (11/30 of $500.00, the difference between options 4 and 3) from $9,700.00.  By this calculation, $9,517.00 is representative of the point at which a majority of the voters selected a level of spending at least as high as that amount.

(ii)  When determining the amount of district education spending for the ensuing fiscal year, the district school board shall provide and the voters shall choose among seven options for per equalized pupil spending as set forth in subdivision (i) of this subdivision (B); the amount representing approval by a majority of the voters, calculated pursuant to that subdivision, shall be deemed to be the budget amount approved by the voters.

(iii)  If the amount voted under subdivision (ii) of this subdivision (B) is less than the amount originally recommended by the district school board, then, after a properly warned public meeting, the board shall adjust the proposed budget pursuant to the amount voted.  If the amount voted is greater than the original recommended amount, then, after a properly warned public meeting, the board shall determine how best to use the additional funds to improve the education of district pupils, or shall assign the excess funds to a contingency fund, or both.

(iv)  If a district pays tuition for some or all of its pupils to attend one or more schools outside the district, then the district is not required to present seven education spending options as required by subdivision (ii) of this subdivision (B).  The district, however, shall provide information to the voters that is substantially similar to the first five paragraphs of the warning language required in subdivision (i) of this subdivision (B). 

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Sec. 3.  REPEAL

Sec. 6 (effective date for requiring a divided question when voting for school budgets that exceed the Maximum Inflation Amount) of No. 82 of the Acts of 2007 is repealed.

Sec. 4.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage and shall apply to the budgets for school year 2010 and after.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us