EWSD Board Budget Update
May 12, 2020
*The following message is from the Essex Westford School District Board. This information is being mailed out to all residents in our community as well.
As the Essex Westford School District asks our communities for support of our FY’21 school budget, we do so with gratitude for all that our teachers, staff, administrators, parents, guardians, and neighbors are doing to support our students and families in this extraordinary time.
While we planned to hold our budget vote on April 14, we were unable due to COVID-19. We are reaching out today to inform you of a change to our usual voting process for this year. The EWSD will mail ballots to all active* voters in the Essex and Westford communities to allow widespread voter participation without the risk that comes with congregating hundreds of citizens at polling locations. The Vermont Secretary of State's office and the Legislature have approved this approach.
The EWSD Board has warned a new annual meeting date of June 2, 2020. Polls will still be open on that date, but by sending ballots we hope to significantly reduce the normal foot traffic of an election. Please expect to see ballots in your mail by mid-May and contact your Town Clerk (Essex: 879-0413 or Westford: 878-4587) with questions you may have.
Recognizing the dramatic change in our environment over the last two months, we remain hopeful that the EWSD will not be compromised in our ability to meet the needs of our school community based on the delay in our vote. Vermonters will need to continue to work together to address the health, economic, and social challenges of this pandemic, and we look forward to assisting our communities and our state in any way that we can.
Please share your voice and your vote on Tuesday, June 2. Thank you, stay safe, and be well.
With gratitude, the Essex Westford School Board
*A voter is active unless their inclusion on the checklist has been challenged and the voter has not responded to the challenge.
The Essex Westford School Board has been meeting consistently during the COVID-19 global pandemic, monitoring changes and directives related to the health and safety of the community. We thank the parents, guardians, and community members who help students access the remote learning that needs to happen right now. This only works with all of your efforts and we appreciate you.
The EWSD Board has had extensive discussions around our proposed budget for the FY‘21 school year. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our environment since Town Meeting Day when the vast majority of communities passed their school budgets.
At this time, we are not recommending a change in the budget from what was carefully prepared for the April vote. Our education spending increase of 2.5% is well below the statewide average increase of over 4%. We understand that the pandemic has placed many of our community members in challenging financial situations, and we also realize that educating students whose access to our schools has been interrupted will be harder, not easier. There is much yet to be determined about how the gap in state revenue will be addressed with federal funds or otherwise, and thus the ultimate impact on taxes.
The schools’ role anchoring and sustaining our community is also more important than ever. Even without classrooms and events, the EWSD continues to provide critical services to our children. During the pandemic's school closure, the EWSD Child Nutrition program is providing breakfast and lunch without cost to children 18 and under. Food insecurity is a larger problem than ever before. This is just one of many programs that our budget supports. From free food to laptops that allow students to learn remotely, it is essential for school services to be at full operational capacity in these uncertain times.
The budget is more than just numbers on a tax bill. The District's largest costs by far are salaries and benefits for our staff. Nearly half of all EWSD employees live within the District itself and many others reside in surrounding Chittenden County towns. Educational tax dollars fund the schools, along with the livelihood of many of our community members. The EWSD is the second-largest employer in our community, making it a crucial gear in our economic engine. Our employees buy food from local stores and restaurants and patronize Essex businesses. They buy homes here and pay rent here. We are grateful for community members' continued support of educational excellence and the local economy through the EWSD budget.
For the vote, the ballots voters receive will come with a pre-addressed and stamped envelope. You will need to fill it out, sign it, and mail it back to the clerk's office so that it is received by Tuesday, June 2. Alternatively, voters can drop off their ballot at the clerk's office by June 1 at 5 p.m. The polls will also be open on June 2 with reduced hours (10 a.m. until 7 p.m.) if voters would like to drop off their vote in person (Essex Jct. residents vote at Essex High School; Essex Town residents vote at Essex Middle School; Westford residents vote at Westford School).
For further information, including the annual report and projected tax impacts, please visit www.ewsd.org/budget. If you have any questions, please contact EWSD Board Chair Martha Heath (firstname.lastname@example.org).