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Ferrisburgh school bond driving up tax rate, budget

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh Central School board has adopted a $3.05 million spending proposal for the upcoming school year that includes a major increase, one that is being driven by the first year of payments on last summer’s $1.5 million school upgrade project.
In all, the increase is about $190,400, or 6.66 percent, over current spending.
Of that, $130,000 will go toward making bond payments. That amount alone would boost FCS spending by 4.55 percent, if voters approve the board’s proposal on Town Meeting Day.
All other proposed increases FCS spending — essentially anticipated salary and benefit hikes — totals about $60,400 and would boost spending over the current level by 2.11 percent.
According to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials both the FCS budget and a level-funded $8.9 million Vergennes Union High School budget pass on Town Meeting Day, and the legislature adopts a recommended higher statewide education property tax rate, Ferrisburgh’s residential property tax rate could rise by 18 cents, from $1.37 to 1.55.
That increase translates to $180 per $100,000 of assessed value, assuming the property owners do not qualify for tax relief. Most ANwSU homeowners in recent years have been eligible for some level of rebates.
ANwSU officials said one factor in addition to the higher expected statewide rate is that Ferrisburgh’s relatively low common level of appraisal — its property is assessed at 88 percent of fair market value, according to state figures — is boosting its school tax rate.
FCS board chairwoman Adela Langrock also said the school has not lost students, but costs have gone up while state funding has not.
“Everything else is increasing around us,” she said.
Langrock said the board understood the tax rate dilemma when it adopted its budget on Jan. 14.
“We struggled with this … We realize it will be a hard tax bill,” she said. “If this budget doesn’t go through, everything will go back to square one, everything is on the table, and that means significant cuts have to be made.”
Cuts were made: the school’s art teacher and combined technology/challenge program director each lost a half-day in the budget proposal and will work four-day weeks, and the school’s secretary will lose 20 days of summertime work.
But Langrock said board members were reluctant to slash art, music, library and challenge programs, which she called “important elements” in a “well-rounded, well-balanced education.”
Those programs could be targets after a budget defeat, she acknowledged.
Despite the dramatic impact last summer’s building project made on the budget, FCS board members do not regret the effort, which included replacing the school’s aging heating and ventilation system, adding a new roof, replacing windows, adding insulation, and upgrading wiring.
“We just got our second oil delivery. Before, usually by this time we were getting our third delivery,” Langrock said.

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