Addison School to cut music, librarian

ADDISON — The Addison Central School board on Thursday eliminated the jobs of the school’s music teacher and librarian, among other cuts, to cut spending and avoid paying a higher per-pupil tax penalty in the 2010-2011 school year.
The result is a total proposed decrease in spending of $84,700, or about 6 percent, to roughly $1.8 million. Addison voters will decide the fate of that proposed ACS budget on Town Meeting Day.
Despite the dramatic cuts in elementary school spending and a proposed Vergennes Union High School budget that calls for a slight decrease, as well, Addison homeowners will face a tax hike, said Addison Northwest Supervisory Union business manager Kathleen Cannon.
Cannon said lawmakers are expected to raise the statewide education property rate, that the declining enrollment at ACS means the town is still paying extra because of high per-pupil spending, and that a Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) adjustment is also adding to the rate.
Assuming both the ACS and VUHS budgets both pass as proposed and that the Legislature adopts the latest proposed statewide school tax rate, ANwSU officials estimate that Addison’s residential school tax rate will rise about 9 cents, from roughly $1.51 to $1.60 — a nearly 6 percent increase.
That increase would translate to a $90 increase in taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, assuming the property owner is not eligible for tax relief. More than half the homeowners in Addison have been eligible for rebates in recent years.
The ACS board entered Thursday’s meeting expecting to have to make even deeper cuts to avoid paying more to the state than its current dollar-for-dollar tax penalty for excess per-pupil spending.
Addison’s declining enrollment — the school’s student count has dropped from 123 two years ago to 115 this year to a projected 104 next year — has bumped up its per-pupil costs to far over the state average, and the town has paid such a penalty in recent years.
After a Jan. 7 public forum, ACS chairman Don Jochum said the takeaway message was that residents did not want to pay any additional penalty in the coming year, but would accept the current level.
The board received some good news in the meantime: ANwSU officials said the school received more than expected in its Small School Grant from the Department of Education, while an audit revealed greater savings than expected from a union-wide spending freeze adopted last winter.
ACS Principal Wayne Howe said that allowed the board to preserve some programs, although long-term issues remain for Addison — and Vermont’s other small schools — to address if enrollment continues to drop.
Howe and ANwSU Superintendent Tom O’Brien had prepared a budget for Thursday’s meeting that called for broader cutbacks, including cutting a day each from mathematics and technology specialists and reduced hours for the music and library programs.
Instead, Howe said the board on Thursday decided after listening to further comments to preserve fully the “core” math and technology programs and instead eliminate the music and library positions.
Howe said on Friday it was a sad day at the school given the two lost jobs, even with less drastic cuts than originally feared.
“It’s still pretty painful. The librarian added a lot of extras to this building,” Howe said.
Parents at both the Jan. 7 and Thursday meetings said they would volunteer to maintain the library, and Cannon said some parents said they would try to raise funds for artists-in-residence to keep a musical element in the school.
On Thursday, the ACS board also voted to cut an hour a day from the food service director’s job, and $28,000 out of $30,000 of three ACS capital funds into which voters have regularly contributed in recent years.
Small amounts were left in each of those funds to allow debate and possible amendment at the annual school meeting in March: $1,000 in the school’s general capital improvement fund, and $500 each in technology and kitchen equipment funds.
“They want to have an amount in them so they can hold a discussion,” O’Brien said.

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