Career center budget features tuition rate drop

MIDDLEBURY — An anticipated spike in enrollment will allow the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) board to present voters with a 2010-2011 spending plan that would result in a slight decrease in the per-pupil assessment charged to sending towns.
The PHCC offers career and technical education to students enrolled in the Addison Central, Addison Northeast and Addison Northwest supervisory unions. The career center operates programs at its headquarters adjacent to Middlebury Union High School, at its “North Campus” in Middlebury’s industrial park, and at Vergennes Union High School.
Career center Director Lynn Coale said voters on Town Meeting Day will field a proposed spending plan of $3,378,719, representing a 1.7 increase ($56,490) in spending compared to this year.
It’s a budget that reflects a few personnel changes and a previously negotiated 4-percent increase (on average) in teacher salaries and a 3.5 percent bump in health insurance costs, according to Coale. Several non-union staff will see their wages frozen, he said. The current collective bargaining contract covers around 30 PHCC employees and will expire after next school year, Coale noted.
“We tried to be respectful of what is going on in our world and our state,” Coale said of the planning that went into the budget. “We tried to be conservative in the percentage increase.”
Plans call for staffing to be reorganized and slightly reinforced at the administrative level, Coale noted. Specifically, the budget calls for one fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching position and one fewer teaching assistant position, with some of those resources used to boost the assistant director’s position from the current 0.6 FTE level to full-time, according to Coale.
While the budget reflects a 1.7-percent bump in spending, the amount that would be charged to sending districts for tuition would decrease by 0.9 percent — from $10,271 per student to $10,178.59.
“We have a pretty substantial increase in our student population,” Coale said of the reason behind the tuition drop. Population counts at the PHCC are tabulated based on a six-semester average. The school is up six FTE students this fall compared to last — for a total of 337 full- and part-time students. It’s a trend that is expected to continue and result in $120,000 in additional state block-grant revenues for the 2010-2011 school year, according to Coale. Many students attending the career center do so on a part-time basis, dividing their day between the PHCC and their sending high school.
“Career and technical education is pretty hot right now,” Coale said, noting the higher enrolment trend can be seen at centers throughout the state, not just the PHCC. It is a trend that runs counter to the declining enrollment at most public schools throughout Vermont, he added.
The proposed budget reflects one new program: “Graphic design,” a computer-related course that meets 120 minutes a day.
“We’ve had a lot of kids express interest that they would like to delve into this,” Coale said of the new course. “There is a tremendous amount of interest in that area and there are some pretty good jobs in that (industry).”
Other than the new graphic design program and fortified administrative staff, there is not much else that is very remarkable about the proposed budget, according to Coale.
“I think our teachers were pretty conscious about controlling their program budgets,” Coale said.
Fred Baser, a member of the career center board’s budget and policy committee, said he’s pleased the board was able to keep the spending increase at 1.7 percent.
“Our goal was to come as close to flat funding as possible,” Baser said.
“There isn’t a lot of fat in this budget.”

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