Last week, Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) submitted testimony to the Senate Education Committee which included a new analysis on the impacts of the recent Pupil Weighting Study.
The high-level analysis shows that 77 districts (generally those with the highest poverty rates) would see an average tax rate decrease of $0.18 and 39 districts (generally those with the lowest poverty rates) would see an average increase of $0.16. Under the modeling, the average tax rate would fall slightly from $1.51 to $1.499 while overall revenues would increase $10M.
JFO has proposed a three-phase implementation plan, the details of which are illustrated in the chart below.
So, what is pupil weighting? In simplest terms, it is the formula that determines the dollars-per-student contribution from the state to a Vermont public school. It seeks to take into account variables that impact how much it costs to educate a school’s students such as population density, poverty rate, and the number of English language learners. The intended outcome is an equitable distribution of state funds that puts money into the communities that need it the most.
The charts below show the projected town-by-town impacts of the new tax rates. Please bear in mind that this is only the preliminary dataset, and these numbers are by no means set in stone. If the images are too small for you to view, click on the Full JFO Testimony link below.
There is also no way of knowing when this might go into effect. Many legislators are seeking to push these changes out as early as the next fiscal year, while others are urging caution and a deeper dive into the impacts of these new rates.
We at Campaign for Vermont are optimistic but urge caution and patience. We are very glad to see that the JFO is doing its due diligence by presenting town-by-town numbers which begin to paint the full picture needed before making such impactful changes. While there are always “winners” and “losers” under a tax weighting formula, it is encouraging to see that the majority will fall into the former category, and, for the most part, impacts on the later will be minimal.
What is still missing, however, is a view of the spending side of this discussion. Part of this process needs to be the development of a mechanism to ensure that any school that sees additional funding is applying those funds to educational outcomes. Asking HOW the money will be spent is just as vital of a question as asking where it will come from. There must also be a discussion on how to best limit the impact of those few towns who will see an increase in their taxes. Finally, any proposed bill must address how this new formula will help with Vermont’s larger goal of bringing our educational spending more in line with the rest of the country.
This is an ongoing issue and we will keep you apprised as the debate continues. If you wish to become more educated on this topic, you can check out the list of links below.
- Full JFO testimony
- Link to list of committee documents
- Recent testimony from Vice Principals Association
- Recent testimony from Vermont Superintendents Association
- Letter from the Vermont Rural School Collaborative
- A link to the committee bill, S.46. Please note that this bill as currently written does not yet include language related to changes to pupil weighting. We do not know what the bill will look like when (or if) it is brought to a committee vote.
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