UD-3 proves up to state’s ‘Challenge’

MIDDLEBURY — UD-3 school district administrators on Tuesday presented their first draft of a 2011-2012 budget that not only meets the state’s “Challenges for Change” guideline of 2.15-percent spending cut ($341,000), it beats it by almost $70,000.
The tentative list of proposed cuts to the combined Middlebury Union Middle School and High School spending plans includes a handful of part-time teaching, clinical and technical support positions; school supplies; computer purchases; and some athletic offerings, the most controversial of which is shaping up to be the MUMS lacrosse program.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease noted UD-3’s “Challenges” task was greatly aided by an early retirement incentive program that will see some veteran teachers replaced by less costly instructors; and debt retirement on the recent elevator and auditorium projects at MUHS.
Also, budget planners learned that they will likely be dealing with a lower inflation rate than the originally estimated 1.6 percent when putting together the final budget.
Sease added UD-3 administrators were able to meet their budget goals without applying any of the $253,112 fund balance remaining from the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
“We were able (to make the cuts) due to some diligent work between the two buildings, and some good fortune,” Sease said.
That said, Sease told UD-3 board members there will be consequences to the cuts, divided between MUHS and MUMS.
“There are some program eliminations; there are some staff adjustments,” Sease said, adding affected staff and the teachers’ union have been informed.
MUHS Principal William Lawson said specific proposed cuts at the high school include:
•A 40-percent technical support position. Lawson explained the ACSU now has a full-time computer tech person, which MUHS could count on for support.
•A 40-percent health education position. Lawson is still confident students will be able to fulfill their health education requirements in spite of the cut, which would result in two fewer sections of the course being offered.
•A part-time clinician. There would still be two full-time clinicians on staff, according to Lawson.
•The golf and alpine skiing programs, along with an assistant varsity football coach and an assistant lacrosse coach. Lawson explained that very few students have participated in golf and alpine skiing in recent years, and he noted enthusiasts could still pursue those sports on an independent basis. The athletic transportation budget is also proposed for cuts.
•An advisor for the Youth Alive program, which has seen no student participation of late, according to Lawson.
•Various classroom supplies and around $10,000 in computer purchases.
MUMS Principal Inga Duktig outlined her proposed cuts and savings, which amount to around $245,000 and include:
•$82,000 in personnel costs, primarily in the areas of special education and library services. Part of those savings are derived from retirees being replaced with less costly hires, according to Duktig.
•A net savings of $88,000 in special education expenses, due to less costly tuition and transportation expenses.
•$16,000 in savings in athletics, including elimination of the middle school lacrosse program.
•A reduction of $13,000 in debt service.
•A savings of $13,000 in buildings and grounds expenses.
•An anticipated savings of $24,000 in ACSU assessments.
UD-3 board members praised Lawson and Duktig for their budgeting efforts, but it was clear that some of the cuts will be brought up for debate before the spending plan is put to bed next month. Among them will be MUMS lacrosse.
Patrick Reen, MUMS assistant principal, noted the lacrosse program served  22 boys and 32 girls last year at a cost of $10,296. Almost $2,300 of the total budget was related to transportation for games in such communities as Montpelier, Woodstock, Rutland, Manchester and Randolph. MUMS officials noted concern about the expense and time commitment for transportation to away games — time that could be eating into homework. They also noted the Club Midd youth lacrosse program that featured participation of more than half of the MUMS players.
In looking for cuts, MUMS officials looked at three options for the school lacrosse program:
•Keeping things the way they are. That means maintaining a separate MUMS lacrosse program that sometimes collaborates with the Club Midd.
•Eliminating MUMS lacrosse, which would save the district money but would potentially eliminate a sport option for children whose families can’t afford to join Club Midd. The club does offer some scholarships but might be put in the position of having to cut some players if enrollment is too high, Reen said.
•Changing MUMS lacrosse to an intramural program. This would reduce expenses to around $5,000 and would eliminate travel to away games.
Several UD-3 board members said they would be reluctant to cut one of the most popular sports at the school.
“I think Club Midd is more competitive, but (the MUMS program) gets kids involved who might not otherwise get involved in the sport,” said board member Bob Ritter, an assistant lacrosse coach at Middlebury College.
Ritter suggested a jamboree-style form of competition to reduce travel expenses.
Board member Lorraine Morse’s daughter played lacrosse at both the middle school and high school. She agreed that not all students would be able to participate in lacrosse if it were just offered as a club sport.
“I have some concerns about cutting it completely,” Morse said.
Board member Mark Perrin suggested MUMS and Club Midd work together on a “hybrid program” to ensure widespread participation.
The UD-3 board will discuss lacrosse and other elements of the budget during the coming weeks before a endorsing a final budget to put before ACSU voters next March.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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