ANESU budget proposal

BRISTOL — The board of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union last week approved a 6.2 percent increase in spending for the 2007-2008 school over the current year. But thanks to a projected budget surplus and additional state and federal funds, the portion of the budget coming from the five towns in the school district — Bristol, Starksboro, Monkton, New Haven and Lincoln — will rise by less than 1 percent.
On Nov. 28 the board approved a 2007-2008 spending plan of $1,276,043, a slight increase over the current year’s budget of $1,201,205. This budget covers the superintendent’s office and services it coordinates in the six schools in the five-town area.
Area residents won’t vote on the budget directly, but their portion will be reflected in the budgets of the member schools that are voted on. Assessments from the proposed budget will be included in the budget proposals of individual school boards, based on the student populations of the respective schools.
Most of the increase will be paid for out of a surplus of $60,255 from the current year, which ANESU business manager Greg Burdick said was the result of a little bit of savings in many areas. And some of the increase will be paid for from state or federal funds. For example, the $8,000 increased expense for Medicaid Billing and Individualized Education Program Web-Based Services line in the budget will be entirely funded from Medicaid.
All told, the supervisory union’s proposed budget will result in an increased assessment to the five towns of $3,083, about 0.3 percent.
Though the spending plan approved by the board will be the one used in the budget calculations of individual schools, Burdick said there was a lot of guesswork in it just because many factors cannot be known exactly yet. “There is a great deal of crystal balls in here,” he said.
For example, the common level of appraisal of Vermont towns, the equalized student count of district schools, and several other relevant numbers remain to be set by the state Department of Education over the coming months, all of which will affect spending to some degree.
The budget proposal voted on Nov. 28 will show an increase of $74,838, which is 6.2 percent more than the budget for the current year. A lot of that increase is because one expense was moved from Mount Abraham Union High School’s budget to that of the supervisory union itself, Superintendent Evelyn Howard said.
A part-time technology services coordinator used to be paid one third of his salary by the supervisory union and the remaining two-thirds by the high school, but now the employee’s entire salary will come through the supervisory union. At $27,570, funding for that employee makes up more than a third of the increased expenses.
A 12 percent increase in health insurance spending raised a few eyebrows among board members. Some asked if ways to minimize that cost had been considered, like having staff members pay more out of their salaries. Howard explained that insurance costs for the supervisory union were comparable to those of individual schools in the district, and costs in that area have been rising overall.
A recurring topic at the Nov. 28 meeting was the problem of standardization among the district schools. When asked about possible changes to personnel at the supervisory union, Howard said that the office is running smoothly right now but they might need to add a human resources manager at some point in the future.
Howard said that the complexity of managing issues like worker’s compensation and retirement plans for six different schools with their own set of contracts and policies is becoming very complicated. “We’re just finding that it takes more and more sophisticated work,” she said.
Starksboro school board member Bonita Bedard said that the various schools, and the supervisory union coordinating them, all could benefit from adopting similar policies sometimes. “We need to find a way to re-evaluate our responsibilities so we are not reinventing the wheel every time,” Bedard said.

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