ANeSU schools dodge deep budget cuts

BRISTOL — Elementary schools in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union are escaping some of the severe budget cuts wracking other schools in the county, but residents are still projected to see tax rate increases ranging from 3 to 13 cents in the five ANeSU towns if the schools’ budgets are OK’d by voters at Town Meeting Day in March.
Between the proposed elementary school budgets and the Mount Abraham Union High School spending plan (down 1.72 percent from the current year’s numbers), property tax rates in Lincoln and Monkton are projected to rise 13 cents (7.3 and 8.5 percent, respectively). Starksboro could see a 10-cent hike (7.8 percent), New Haven’s rate is estimated to rise 9 cents (5.1 percent), and Bristol is slated to see a 3-cent rise in 2010-2011 (2.3 percent).
ANeSU Business Manager Greg Burdick said that the relatively modest spending cuts this year reflect a three-year effort in the supervisory union to cut the fat from school budgets as the number of students in the district shrinks.
“We have tried to keep pace with the declining enrollments,” Burdick said. “It’s an ongoing effort. The big picture is that we’ve been working continuously on this problem.”
Teacher salaries at all five of the schools are still under negotiation, but under the current proposed spending plans support staff are slated to receive a 4-percent raise while administrators’ salaries will not receive any bump. Health insurance at the elementary schools are budgeted to rise by 3 percent next year, and the cost of benefits is slated to go up, too.
Otherwise, each of the schools approached budgeting independently, choosing to tweak their spending plans in different ways.
Of the five elementary schools in the supervisory union, the Lincoln Community School is facing the biggest hike in educational spending — a proposed 5.35 percent increase to $1,403,788 from $1,332,476 in the 2009-2010 school year.
The proposed budget would ratchet educational spending per pupil to $13,335, a 7.92 percent hike increase from the current school year.
The hike in per-pupil spending is due in part to declining enrollment, and overall spending increases are attributed to an anticipated renovation project that school officials hope could begin in the summer of 2011.
The school board OK’d increases in building repairs and maintenance line items for summer work, and also proposed that the school squirrel away funding for architectural services for the future renovation.
Additionally, the proposed budget calls for increasing custodial time for more summer cleaning and repairs, as well as increasing custodial time during the school year by two hours a day.
Cuts to the budget include one full-time teacher and one and a half full-time aides. If approved, the spending plan would trim kitchen staff by 10 hours a week, and reduce the tech support staff by eight days each year. Additionally, the budget calls for reducing spending on computer hardware by $10,000.
Educational spending and spending per pupil are set to drop at Bristol Elementary School, where the $3.68 million proposed spending plan reflects a 0.38 percent drop in educational spending. Meanwhile, per pupil spending is projected to drop 4.88 percent given a slight increase in the student body.
Administrators at the school are cutting two special education aide positions from the spending plan and reducing the line item for out-of-district special education tuition. Instead of sending students to other schools for programs like speech therapy, the school is hoping to keep those expenses in house by hiring a full-time speech professional.
A decrease in the school’s debt load also chipped away at the proposed spending plan.
Educational spending is slated to drop by 1.06 percent in the Monkton Central School’s proposed spending plan, falling by just more than $20,000 from $2,071,631 to $2,049,675.
Despite the decrease in educational spending, per pupil costs are still slated to jump 5.85 percent as a result of declining enrollment at the elementary school.
Officials at the school are asking voters to approve a budget that calls for an increase in building repairs and maintenance to replace a heat exchanger and continue replacing and painting siding at the school.
The school is also looking to purchase new cafeteria tables and upgrade the school’s public announcement system. Another line item calls for purchasing stone basins to place around the school’s roof to decrease rain and snow back-splash onto the building’s siding, which has been causing problems with rotting.
Rising enrollments mean spending is projected to go up at Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro, where the proposed spending plan calls for a 3.68 percent increase to $1,892,792 in educational spending from the current school year’s numbers. Meanwhile, per pupil spending could drop by 1.18 percent, if the spending plan is approved by voters.
The proposed budget calls for a minor increase of a half-day of staff time in the guidance department, which would allow for more mentor program coordination. The budget also calls for reducing the tech support staff by 10 days each school year, and reducing the custodial workload by two hours a day.
The proposed budget at Beeman Elementary School in New Haven reflects the greatest drop in spending in the supervisory union. The Beeman board is floating $1,488,118 in educational spending, which reflects a 6.44 percent drop from the current school year. If approved, the budget would reflect a 0.34 percent drop in per pupil spending.
The proposed spending plan calls for increasing in-service training days for the school’s support staff by one day each year. The budget also calls for the reduction of two and a quarter full-time instructional assistants, as well as a half-day for a health professional at the school.

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