Mt. Abe eyes some staff cuts to meet ‘Challenge’

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School board on Tuesday set its educational spending target for the coming fiscal year at $10,893,881, which represents a reduction of 2 percent — or $266,767 — from this year’s spending plan.
The target agreed upon unanimously by the board members would allow Mount Abe to reach the voluntary 2 percent spending cut mandated by the Legislature as part of its “Challenges for Change” law, which aims to trim $23 million from education spending statewide.
To reach this target, Co-principals Andy Kepes and Leon Wheeler suggested a number of cuts and reductions around the school that, if implemented, could save Mount Abe upwards of $266,767 in the next year. The proposed cuts would not affect programming, they assured the board, but any further reductions could mean deeper staff reductions.
Proposed cuts included not replacing a history teacher who will be leaving after this year, which would save approximately $75,000; going from five counselors to four, saving around $80,000; squeezing $10,000 out of department budgets; and cutting one regular education paraprofessional.
While the $266,767 reduction would allow the school to comply with Challenges for Change, an additional $275,000 would need to be cut in order to keep projected per-pupil spending level this year. Per-pupil costs will go up next year due to a loss of 33 students on top of the 44 lost in the current year.
“If we need to go that far, if that’s your wish, it’s going to create tremendous challenges,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to have to make some very difficult decisions that will impact what are, at this point, critical staffing positions.”
In light of Kepes and Wheeler’s suggestions, board members set their sights on the target that would require fewer reductions in the school’s spending. School board chairman Lanny Smith said the co-principals and board need think ahead to next year’s budget given declining student enrollment.
“We as a board are also aware that we are down 44 this year, we’ll be down 33 more next year,” Smith said. “That is going to impact us with state revenues because that will get us into the second year of a three-year balancing of per-pupil numbers that is going to hammer us hard.”
Tamara Hilmes is at [email protected].

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