Op-ed: Please Vote on School Budget

By Jim Murphy

It is important that residents of Montpelier and Roxbury vote on the 2020 Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools budget on Town Meeting Day, March 5, 2019. This budget is the first proposed since our new district has been up and operating. It’s been an exciting new year as we have put the merger in place, welcomed Roxbury students to both Main Street Middle School and Montpelier High School, saw Roxbury Village School become a second elementary school in our district, and welcomed a new Superintendent, Libby Bonesteel.

The 2020 budget is a responsible, steady advancement as the administration gets the new district off the ground and assesses how we can better use existing resources and improved systems to advance the district’s goals of excellence, equity, and diversity.

To create a more solid foundation for additional investments in achieving equity and excellence, the budget builds capacity for important needs, such as social-emotional learning. It also expands busing to include Main Street Middle School (MSMS) students, something that will benefit many MSMS students who live too far to practically walk, help families who struggle to provide safe transportation for their students, and reduce the vehicular traffic in front of MSMS at pick up and drop off.

The budget additionally provides money for a study to assess the implementation of a world language program at the elementary school level. The study is designed to, if it proves practical, offer a viable plan to put in a place a world language immersion program that would start in kindergarten. Other schools in the state have put in place similar programs, and the hope is that we can offer a similar program to elementary-aged students in Montpelier and Roxbury.

World language at the elementary level has long been a top desire of community members. It is exciting that the budget takes a significant step toward achieving this goal.

At a time when school districts are being squeezed by a series of policies at the state level, our district’s growing enrollment—one of the few in the state with such growth—has helped keep the tax rate for this budget at an affordable level, with increases of 2.7 percent for Montpelier and 0.7 percent for Roxbury. The tax rate is relatively in line with the budget’s overall increase of approximately 2.75 percent per student.

Finally, the budget builds on district-wide facility improvements, including major investments in a new playground at Union Elementary School, and significant improvements in the arts, auditorium, and indoor athletic facilities at the high school by establishing a separate capital fund. This fund will ensure that we continuously maintain our facilities and reduce the need for future bonds to deal with facilities upkeep. Many of the investments from this fund will go most immediately to needed improvements at Main Street Middle School, including several bathrooms. While the capital fund appears as a separate item to be voted on, it is calculated as part of the overall tax impact discussed above and does not result in any additional tax increase.

This budget puts the district in a great position to grow and meet the needs of all our children. Please vote on it on March 5.

Jim Murphy is chair of the Montpelier-Roxbury Schools Board of School Commissioners.

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