The next Vermont legislative session is still several months away, but lawmakers, and state and local education officials, are already grappling with an expected gap in the state's Education Fund for the 2019 fiscal year.
The Valley News and VTDigger have reported the gap could be up to $80 million. That could increase residents' property taxes, and could put a strain on resources for some school districts.
Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said the gap is mostly due to the use of one-time funds in the current fiscal year. She said the state used $26 million in leftover money this year, plus $9 million in reserve funds. That money won't necessarily be available next year.
"To make a long story short, what we see is that one-time funds coupled with trying to support a structure that is expensive, puts pressure on taxpayers," Holcombe said.
Rising salary and health insurance costs for teachers present another funding challenge for the state. Asked whether the legislature should reconsider a proposal by Governor Phil Scott to negotiate teacher health insurance contracts statewide, Holcombe said everything's on the table.
"I think we know that people are struggling to pay their bills in Vermont, and part of that is when we spend a tremendous amount on a system that has excess capacity, we may be buying more overhead than we need," Holcombe said.
More broadly, Holcombe said the state's funding formula for education could be re-evaluated in the next legislative session. She said several legislators, and her department, are considering proposals that could be brought forward next year.
Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe spoke to VPR's Henry Epp. Listen to their full conversation above.