Ferrisburgh school spending plan, $20k article approved

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Tuesday supported a $3.5 million Ferrisburgh Central School budget proposal, 246-217, or about 53-47 percent, in the town’s second vote of the spring on an elementary school spending plan.

Voters in 22.5 percent turnout also backed, 270-194, a separate $20,000 article that will pay for a keyless electronic entry system for FCS like those now used at other local schools. FCS officials said that system will improve security at the school’s main entrance.

Ferrisburgh residents at the same time supported a second Vergennes Union High School spending proposal, 253-210. Overall, Addison Northwest Supervisory Union residents backed, 687-584, a $9.4 million plan that called for lower spending than the current school year. The VUHS board made about $316,000 of cuts from the budget that was defeated on Town Meeting Day; see story.

The FCS plan approved on Tuesday was about $120,000 lower than the school board’s initial plan that lost on March 4, 450-279, or about 62-38 percent. That defeat of an FCS budget is believed to be the first in the school’s history.

The major change on Tuesday from the defeated budget was the board’s decision to scrap a plan to add a fourth teacher and a modular classroom to help handle a large blended 5th- and 6th-grade class.

Neither Principal JoAnn Taft-Blakely nor ANwSU officials had endorsed the extra teacher and classroom. That board decision to change course saved around $90,000, officials said.

The plan approved on Tuesday will increase FCS spending from the current level of about $3.26 million to $3,498.873, or by 7.26 percent.

But most of that increase is not in apples-to-apples spending, according to ANwSU officials — most of that extra spending is due to a special education cost shift within union schools.

Starting during the next school year, all special education expenses within ANwSU will be shared among the schools on a per-pupil basis. ANwSU officials say that change will in the long run soften the at times dramatic impact of special education costs at a single school in a single year.

In the first year of the new accounting method, the change will have the effect of decreasing costs at VUHS and increasing costs at the three ANwSU elementary schools.

Even with the $120,000 lower FCS spending proposal and the lower VUHS budget supported on Tuesday (see story on Page 1A), Ferrisburgh home and business owners are looking at a tax increase.

Higher than expected special education costs at VUHS in recent years created a deficit that must be retired, while also that school’s declining enrollment has pushed per-pupil spending higher. Meanwhile, legislators finally pegged the statewide residential property tax rate increase at 4 cents, and the non-residential rate increase at 7.5 cents.

But other changes in the funding formula, and a drop in Ferrisburgh’s Common Level of Appraisal will also push the town’s school tax rate higher.

ANwSU business manager Kathy Cannon now estimates the town’s residential rate will rise by about 26 cents, or 20 percent, to about $1.55 in the coming year.

However, about two-thirds of Ferrisburgh’s homeowners are eligible for property tax prebates, according to Vermont Department of Taxes data, and thus would not feel the full brunt of any tax increase.

 Cannon said Ferrisburgh’s non-residential rate would increase by almost 13 percent to about $1.485.

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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