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Ferrisburgh Central board considering significant cuts

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Posted on January 11, 2016 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh Central School board on Wednesday considered a budget for the 2016-2017 academic year that would cut $228,000 from the school’s current $3.587 million spending level. 

If adopted and approved by residents in March, cuts would include the school’s challenge and band programs, literacy intervention specialist, and part-time technology instructor, according to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent JoAn Canning on Thursday.

Canning said the proposal, one of two she and Principal Joanne Taft-Blakely presented to the board, was not popular among board members and parents.

But, Canning said, those cuts and a series of other reductions are necessary if the board wants to avoid triggering the dollar-for-dollar penalty Act 46 imposes on towns that spend above a certain per-pupil threshold.

“You may see something that looks like this” adopted by the board, she said.

The Legislature is considering revising or delaying until 2017 Act 46’s threshold penalty provision, and Canning testified in Montpelier on Wednesday about the need for change to the law. The Senate has gone on record as supporting revision, and the House Education Committee is studying options and might act later this month, but school officials have said they know there are no guarantees.

The other budget Canning and Taft-Blakely presented to the Ferrisburgh board on Wednesday called for a $64,000 reduction and did not reduce personnel or programs. About $51,000 of those savings came in projected lower special education costs. In turn, those cuts were incorporated into the $228,000 of reductions for the other spending plan.

ANwSU officials on Thursday said they did not yet have firm estimates on the tax impact of the two plans, but that even a budget with $228,000 of cuts might add a few cents to Ferrisburgh’s school tax rate, while a spending plan with only $64,000 of cuts might add another 9 cents to that total.

According to the Vermont Department of Taxes, the homestead education tax rate in Ferrisburgh for the current year $1.6327 per $100 of assessed value.

Canning said a central problem is that Ferrisburgh Central’s equalized pupil numbers are projected to drop by 20 students for the next school year. When a school has fewer students, its per-pupil costs rise — in Ferrisburgh’s case, that per-pupil cost of education rises over the Act 46 threshold unless the board makes the drastic cuts.

The Ferrisburgh Central board will meet again on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s art room to continue talking about the budget. It must adopt a spending plan by the end of next week in order to meet the deadline for a March 1 vote.

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