MILTON — As another new school year begins, the Milton Town School District school board is looking to get a handle on how the district receives and spends its money.
Milton taxpayers might also be curious about how money flows, given that they approved an increase in education taxes to fund the district's $31.7 million budget earlier this summer.
The fiscal year 2021 school budget, passed by voters in a re-vote June 9, increases the tax rate by 9 cents, or an additional $174 per year for a taxpayer with a property value of $200,000.
"It's almost like it happens behind a curtain," Rick Dooley, chair of the school board, said in reference to how money is transferred from taxpayers, to the town and then to the school.
"I am happy to answer these questions," Gifford said. "I want it to be out there and transparent for you. It should never be a mystery."
Here are the answers to some of those frequently asked questions:
How does money move from the taxpayer to the school? For example, if Milton passes a school budget, and the total to be raised by taxpayers is $14 million, how is that money transferred to the school?
During fiscal year 20, which lasted from July 1, 2019 to June 29, 2020, the almost $14 million of MTSD’s budget needed to be raised by taxes. That money was collected by Treasurer John Gifford.
The school district receives this money in segments, based on how much has been collected by a given date. Over the course of three separate transactions, during the first weeks of October, March and June, the $14 million was transferred to the school.
Gifford bases this time table off of instruction from the state of Vermont, which is released every year in a directive called the Cash Flow Projection.
“It will tell me exactly how much I need to send you,” he said.
What happens if the town does not collect enough money? What if instead of $14 million, the town is only able to collect $13.5 million?
The town still must send MTSD $14 million regardless of what is collected.
This might mean the town needs to go out and borrow money, Gifford said.
“This last year, when COVID hit, and we thought a lot of people were going to be out of work, I called a couple of banks and said ‘how can I borrow this money?’” Gifford said. “We are getting ready for this if need be, but so far we’re doing pretty well.”
What happens if the town collects more than enough money? What if instead of $14 million, the town collects $14.5 million?
Milton is not allowed to collect anything more than what is billed. If someone overpays on their taxes, the town has to give that money back or credit it towards the next year.
The only way the town might collect over $14 million is if it collects interest and penalties on delinquent taxes, or taxes that are past due. Over the last eight years, an average of 2.86%, or about $680,000 in taxes is unpaid every year.