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Mt. Abe busing drives proposed 6.3 percent spending hike

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By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School board of directors has signed off on a spending plan totaling $12,919,874 for the 2008-2009 school year.

The plan represents a proposed increase in spending of 6.37 percent over the current year’s budget, but officials attributed almost half of that increase to the fact that in past years busing costs appeared in elementary school budgets but this year they appear in the high school budgets.

According to Mount Abe school board Chairman Lanny Smith, the effective proposed increase in spending is about 3.2 percent.

Residents of Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns — Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro — will vote on the proposed Mount Abe spending plan, approved at the board’s Jan. 22 meeting, on Town Meeting Day. Supervisory union business manager Greg Burdick said that education tax rates had not been set by the state legislature as the Addison Independent went to press, so the exact impact of the budget on area towns cannot yet be determined.

Children in the ANeSU ride the same buses whether in high school or the elementary schools of each town. Act 130, a Vermont law that took effect in the past year, requires school districts to distinguish between spending on elementary school and secondary school, so the supervisory union is now calculating the high school and elementary busing costs separately.

As a result, the transportation budget for the high school more than tripled, from $148,071 in the 2007-2008 budget to $499,114 in the 2008-09 spending plan. Most of that increase had appeared in the elementary schools’ budgets in the past, and Burdick said that the transportation expenses for those schools will drop correspondingly.

At a December meeting, the board received a budget draft that totaled $12,999,836 and it asked administrators to cut another $130,000 from it, to reduce the growth in spending from 4 to 3 percent (minus the busing increase). The final budget of $12,919,874 comes to an increase of about 3.2 percent, but according to Smith, the cuts were still significant enough to satisfy the board.

“Everybody agreed that it was close but it was acceptable,” he said.

He said the cuts between the December draft and the final version of the budget came from a lot of relatively small reductions in various places rather than significant cuts to any one program.

The Horizons Counseling department budget was $632,568 in the December draft but only $630,349 in the final budget, for example, and the Horizons Personalized Learning budget was $317,643 in the December draft but only $316,190 in the final budget.

Other than the change to tracking transportation costs, the rest of the spending plan for the 2008-2009 school year contains few surprises.

The budget picture became even clearer on Thursday evening, when negotiators for the school board and the Addison Northeast Education Association came to tentative terms on a new teachers’ contract.

The exact terms of that contract will be revealed when both sides formally ratify the pact.

Joanne Casey, chief negotiator for the teachers’ union, could not be reached for comment as the Addison Independent went to press on Friday.

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