Schools face state budget challenges

MONTPELIER (AP) — School districts across Vermont are being asked to trim a total of $23.2 million from already lean budgets. If they don’t, Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca might ask the Legislature to require them to.
Vilaseca late last Wednesday announced the state mandated cuts for each individual supervisory union. It came in response to the Challenges for Change state cost-cutting law passed by the Legislature last spring.
Schools in Addison County and Brandon will have to cut nearly $1.9 million in spending in fiscal year 2012 under the goals Vilaseca unveiled. That represents reductions in spending ranging from 2 to 2.35 percent.
Across the state, the largest mandated cut is $1.1 million at the Burlington School District, the smallest is around $38,000 at the Essex North Supervisory Union in Canaan.
“It’s just another factor added to an already difficult process,” said Jim Kane, business administrator for the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union in Brattleboro, which faces a 1.8-percent cut of $762,000 for its 10 schools.
• At local supervisory unions, the targeted spending reductions are as follows:
• Addison Central, cut of $613,340 or 2.276 percent.
• Addison Northeast, $516,950 or 2.35 percent.
• Addison Northwest, $352,857 or 2.171 percent.
• Rutland Northeast, $449,599 or 2.047 percent.
• Addison Rutland, $379,859 or 2.099 percent.
Officials at the ACSU and ANeSU did not return phone calls by the deadline for this edition of the Addison Independent.
Late last week, observers said the cuts could be offset to some extent by $19 million to save teacher jobs in Vermont included in a Jobs Bill that passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday and up for a rush vote in the House.
Over the last half-decade, boards have had a tough time balancing the needs of all the students in the system, from children who need special education to those in early preschool, he said Thursday.
“You can look at like it’s tough to deal with or extreme, but … times are tough economically,” he said.
The move is part of the Challenges for Change measure passed by the Legislature. It set the goal of finding $38 million in savings in state government by reorganizing the way agencies do business for greater efficiency.
The bill calls for a 2 percent reduction in education spending statewide with Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca recommending cuts for each of the 283 school districts. The cuts were based on per pupil spending, class size, and demonstrated fiscal restraint, the Education Department said.
Jeanne Collins, superintendent for the Burlington School District, faulted the formula for not squaring with Vermont’s education funding system, which takes into account demographics.
Burlington is responsible for 5 percent of the total $23.2 million cut, but is among the lowest spending districts in the state and has the most diverse and needy population, which has increased by 1 percent over the last six years, Collins said.
“So we’re taking the largest chunk. It doesn’t seem to equate with our funding system,” she said.
If the district achieves the cut, it will mean some layoffs and affect class sizes, programs and social services, she said. “We have no choice. It’s too lean a system,” she said.
The school boards have until Dec. 15 to notify Vilaseca if they can meet the targets. The commissioner will then report to the legislative education committees on the total projected education spending.

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