TAX INCREASE UPDATE:
Based on comments at yesterday's School Board meeting, it appears only 3 Board members oppose a tax increase. (Me, Carolyn Weems and Laura Hughes). If you believe there should not be an additional tax increase for this purpose, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
1. 2 Years ago, the school board voted to implement full day kindergarten in all of our schools through a 5 year plan and the citizens were given a tax increase for this purpose.
2. This year's portion of the 5 yr plan is funded through this budget cycle and no additional money is currently needed .
3. BEHIND THE SCENES DEALINGS: A councilwoman contacted the School Board chair and suggested that the School Board request a tax increase this year (even though it is not needed under the current 5 yr plan approved by the school board). The school board NEVER discussed accelerating this program and it wasn't even brought up until Councilwoman Wilson decided it would be a good idea (4 days before we were set to vote on the budget).
Ms. Wilson and School Board Chair are up for reelection next year so it would be more beneficial for them politically to ask for the tax increase this year rather than next.
(Note-- 3 of our schools do not have the ability to implement full day kindergarten due to construction. We also need time to be able to hire teachers, plan transportation, etc. Logistically, accelerating the plan is NOT a good idea).
4. I believe we could find the money to fund this $5 million through our existing budget of nearly $1 BILLION.
This year alone we are spending at least $7 million just on technology software in the classroom (this doesn't even include microsoft software licensing). $2.3 million is on one software program that we will never own. We are paying millions of dollars to provide a Chromebook to every elementary school student (even though they already had great access to computers-- at least 1 computer for every 2 students). When it was suggested that elementary students shouldn't be spending a lot of time on computers, we were told that they limit the use of the computers. If that is the case then why does every student need one--- why can't they share devices? I believe too much technology use by our elementary students is harmful.
5. The Superintendent just spent $80,000 on an outside consultant for 20 days of work. $4,000 per day. This seems to be the going rate for VBCPS to pay outside consultants and isn't the only consultant that has been paid this amount through sole source contracting.
Budgeting is about priorities. 40% of our students are on free or reduced lunch plans. I don't think it is fair to our citizens to take more money out of their pockets when we have the ability to reduce spending.
I also believe asking for a tax increase to accelerate the implementation of a program is a slap in the face to the teachers who have been asking us to not put any more programs ahead of their requests for better compensation.
NOTE: We had a surplus of around $20 million last year.