School Board Adopts Adjusted Budget

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Thursday January 22, 2015

The school board unanimously adopted the FY 2016 budget at their January 14, 2015 meeting. The revised budget reflects a 1.62 percent increase in the residential tax rate (as opposed to the 1.81 percent increase the board discussed at their January 5 meeting). The residential property tax impact for each $100,000 of homestead value is $1,637, an increase over FY15 of $27, or a monthly increase of $2.21. This means that the tax on a $330,000 home prior to income sensitivity would be $5,401. This equates to a monthly increase of $7.19, or a total yearly increase of $86.28. Tax on a $226,000 condominium prior to income sensitivity would total $3,699, an increase of $59 annually or $4.90 monthly.

The budget total remains the same at $45,747,228 million dollars.

The primary reason for the adjustment in the tax rate from the prior meeting was due to the announcement of the tuition rate for districts sending students to South Burlington. Business Manager John Stewart had placed a conservative figure in the January 5 recommended budget, but at the January 14 meeting, the board approved setting the rate for grades 7-12 at $15,192, which represents an increase of 2.6 percent or $394 over tuition last year.

While this figure adjustment provides some relief to taxpayers, board members still had concerns. Elizabeth Fitzgerald identified these concerns: the $50,000 in the budget designated to offset the nutritional services deficit, the $100,000 above the recommended contribution to the pension, the number of FTE teachers vs. student enrollment, copier/operational expenses, and expenses related to sophomore advisory co-curricular salaries. Another discussion point involved the $25,000 Young had put in contingency toward mindfulness, mentoring, and the We All Belong program. Young said he felt strongly about supporting these programs. “We have good work going on, but it’s fragmented,” Young added.

Several members of the public were present to offer their perspective. One resident said she had reviewed her tax bills from prior years and noticed that in the past four years alone, her bill had gone up over $1,000. She relayed that many of her neighbors have had enough with the increases and while they have always supported the schools, this year, they feel conflicted.

Another resident, who has been on the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee in years past said she thought the budget was reasonable and commended the board for their hard work. However, she added, “People don’t always vote logically, it’s often emotional.” She cautioned the board not to take too much out of the budget now, just in case it does not pass the first time.

The board knows that communication on the budget will be key this year. There will be a series of events to kick off that game plan, not the least of which will be pre-Town Meeting Day March 2. More detailed budget information is available on the district website. Hard copies are also available, free of charge, by request.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent