Career Center to offer lower budget

MIDDLEBURY — Steadily surging enrollment and some cost-cutting has allowed the Patricia Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) board to craft a proposed 2011-2012 budget that represents a 1.05-percent decrease in spending and produces the lowest tuition rate in recent memory.
The PHCC board is recommending a budget of $3,343,333, which is $35,528 less than this year’s spending plan and represents slightly more savings than was requested from the school under the state’s “Challenges for Change” education spending directive.
Helping the financial picture at PHCC is an enrollment increase of about 16 full-time equivalent students, for a total of 178. The center’s 13 career and technical education programs draw students from the Addison Central, Addison Northeast and Addison Northwest supervisory unions. Enrollment at the state’s technical centers is calculated based on a six-semester average.
That surge in student population has helped reduce the proposed local assessment — the “tuition rate” charged to sending towns for their students at PHCC — to $8,656, down 15 percent from the current $10,180.
“We have a whole lot more students, and our budget went down,” PHCC Director Lynn Coale said. “It’s all very good news for the taxpayers.”
Coale called the proposed $3,343,333 spending plan a “tight budget,” one that he is concerned might prove a little too low, “considering our enrollments are growing.”
The budget features a combined total of 1.25 fewer staff, one of which is a cut of a full-time teaching assistant. The other 0.25-percent position savings is derived from a staffer who will be taking a leave of absence for a semester next year. PHCC — which runs programs at its headquarters next to Middlebury Union High School; at its “North Campus” in Middlebury’s industrial park; and at Vergennes Union High School — employs 40.
“We have taken some major reductions in things like equipment (down $12,000), repairs and heating fuel oil costs,” Coale said.
Anticipated $10,000 in fuel savings is based on current heating oil prices and a two-year average of those costs, Coale noted. With that in mind, a substantial spike in heating fuel prices could push that account into the red, he said.
Career center officials are also proposing to save money by printing what Coale said would be a “minimal number” of copies of PHCC’s annual report, which will be available on-line.
That move is expected to save $11,000, Coale said.
Also working in PHCC’s favor is an estimate that health insurance premiums will increase by 3 percent next year, an amount that would be substantially lower than recent trends.
Still, there remains one major unknown going into the next budget year, Coale noted. The current PHCC teacher and staff contract runs out at the end of this school year, and negotiators are just beginning to hammer out terms for a new pact.
The school expects to have $101,000 in a fiscal year 2010 fund balance to carry over to the 2011-2012 budget. Career center officials hope to place that money in PHCC’s building reserve fund. Voters will get the final say.
Coale sees many good years ahead for PHCC, which Coale said is tailoring its programs to meet the interests and needs of students and employers.
“The balancing act that we always have is to be able to offer programs that kids like and will sign up for, and that will result in (skills) that are high-wage, high-skill and in high demand,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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