ANwSU looking at 4.4 to 5.8 percent spending increases

VERGENNES — Addison Northwest Supervisory Union elementary school boards are looking at spending increases of between 4.4 and 5.8 percent for the 2006-2007 school year. Next month those boards are expected to approve those spending plans for voter consideration on Town Meeting Day. 
The Ferrisburgh Central School board is looking at the highest increase, a 5.8 percent hike to about $2.64 million.
The Vergennes Union Elementary School board is eyeing a 4.9 percent jump to about $3.4 million.
The Addison Central School board is considering requesting voter approval for a spending boost of 4.4 percent to $1.74 million.
At each school an increase of about 9 percent in the cost of providing health insurance to school employees is driving budgets higher, while teachers’ salaries are also rising by about 4 percent under a new district-wide contract.
Federal funding for some programs, including school-based clinicians, is also drying up, and ANwSU officials have restored a remedial summer program they say is needed to help some students keep up at their grade levels.
Special education spending is also driving spending at FCS and VUES, although ACS officials are now projecting little change in that unpredictable line item.
The face value of the Vergennes Union High School budget that the VUHS board will probably adopt next month looks much the same as current spending, about $8 million, but because of a change in how vocational spending is handled that budget actually contains an increase of almost 6 percent.
ANwSU officials said that increase is largely driven by rising special education and health care costs and the proposed purchase of two buses. Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center spending will be voted separately on a county-wide basis in March.
The overall projected increase at FCS is about $144,525, which would bring estimated spending for the 2006-2007 school year to $2,638,155.
Rising health insurance and special education costs would alone boost the current $2.5 million FCS budget by about $52,000, or 2.2 percent, according to figures provided by ANwSU business manager Donna Corcoran. New special education costs include an extra aide.
The other major boost is $40,000 to pay for the summer program and a higher share of the cost of school-based clinicians who counsel and support at-risk students.
Salary increases, meanwhile, are adding only about $8,000 to the budget, a figure roughly equal to higher projected transportation costs.
The overall projected increase at VUES — which serves students in Vergennes, Panton and Waltham — is $160,270, which would bring estimated spending for the 2006-2007 school year to $3,404,811.
Spending on health insurance is the single biggest driver in the proposed budget. In addition to the higher cost, VUES officials are expecting more employees to subscribe to the plans offered by ANwSU. They expect to spend about $65,000 more at VUES on health insurance this coming year, enough to push current spending higher by about 2 percent.
VUES must also hire two special education aides, one full-time and one part-time, at a cost of about $29,500.
The board has also decided to add the $23,900 job of “school climate facilitator” to the payroll. Corcoran said this position is in lieu of a vice principal, and the employee will handle many of the discipline issues normally the responsibility of a vice principal.
VUES will also spend more on its summer program and school-based clinicians.
Those additional costs are being offset, at least in part, by the retirement of the school’s 1987 bond that funded its kindergarten wing. The savings will be almost $44,000 a year. VUES is still paying on a 20-year note taken out in 1997 to pay for windows, central heating and ventilation improvements, and roofing.
The overall projected increase at ACS is about $73,417, which would bring estimated spending for the 2006-2007 school year to $1,744,973.
The addition of summer school and the loss of federal funding for literacy programs and clinicians are hitting ACS hard. The board added in about $50,000 for those elements, Corcoran said.
Health insurance will boost spending by almost 1 percent, and the ACS board also added almost $21,000 to the maintenance budget to pay for new carpet, doors and windows, enough to boost spending by about 1.5 percent.

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