Burlington School Board exploring other options for school funding

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Burlington school trustees have an important decision to make as a potential funding issue for the new high school and technical center surfaces.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan says time is running out, saying they are still committed to having students in a new building by the August 2025 goal.

They are currently facing a funding shortfall of $35 million. School commissioners say they hope to receive state or federal funding for the project.

The conversation Clare Wool, chair of the school board, said it has been ongoing since the bond vote passed earlier this year.

“Our high school was closed by state agencies on the recommendation of environmental agencies at the federal level as well, so we need help cleaning up this contaminated site,” Wool explained.

Flanagan says the city is only allowing them to guarantee $150 million in funding for the new high school and technology center, well below their $210 million plan. In addition to the obligation, they have $25 million available from other capital plans.

“Every dollar we spend has an impact, so we need to make sure we think about how we allocate those funds,” Flanagan said after school commissioners began questioning other budget improvements.

The school board is considering cost-cutting measures to offset this decline, such as moving part of the technical center to the airport.

“We have a $10 million grant from Senator Leahy to build at the airport,” Flanagan told Channel 3. “We have an aviation program there, but we have other programs that could also benefit from being at the airport.” He said the benefits of being at the airport include more space and better networking opportunities.

Wool said they are still discussing bail with the city, hoping to get more approval. All the obligations of this project will have to be approved by the voters. They should be on the ballot in November.

“We are, like I said, in a state of emergency without a high school,” Wool said. “Right now we’re using education funds to pay rent and that’s not a good use of education funds.”

Flanagan says they plan to have a follow-up meeting next week to further discuss this potential funding issue. He says he hopes a decision will be made at that time as well.

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