Schools meet spending targets

MIDDLEBURY — Residents in six of the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s (ACSU) seven member towns will vote this March on proposed 2011-2012 elementary school budgets that proposed lower spending than this year’s.
The potential property tax impacts of those proposed budgets, however, were still being firmed up as the Addison Independent went to press. Lee Sease, ACSU superintendent, warned some towns could see education property tax increases in spite of offering reduced elementary school spending. That’s because education tax rates are affected by such factors as student enrollment declines and common level of appraisal provisions of the Act 68 school funding law.
An extended leave by a key ACSU budget officer precluded Sease from providing the latest tax-impact information at press time. The Independent will update that information prior to Town Meeting Day, when most local school budgets will come up for vote.
Sease said school boards in the ACSU-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Salisbury, Ripton, Shoreham and Weybridge were dedicated to reducing spending as much as possible in light of the sluggish economy and the Challenges for Change directive handed down from state officials last year. Most of the ACSU towns met the Challenges goal of reducing their education spending next year by around 2 percent in order to help save the state around $24 million.
The seventh ACSU town, Middlebury, has yet to finalize its 2011-12 budget, which will be fielded by voters in April.
“We all took Challenges for Change seriously; we aimed for it,” Sease said. “Some schools made it; some didn’t. But we did better than most other (supervisory unions) around the state.”
Bridport school directors are proposing a 2011-2012 spending plan of $1,329,218, representing a 0.12-percent decrease from the $1,330,817 approved last year.
School board Chairman Brian Desforges pointed to savings from cutting part-time librarian and receptionist positions. He added the school will be carrying forward a $27,000 fund balance to help offset taxes for 2011-2012.
The Bridport Central School population is being pegged at around 75 students, down from around 80.
In Cornwall, the Bingham Memorial School Board is proposing a budget of $1,299,806, down by 2.21 percent compared to this year’s spending plan of $1,329,145.
Given recent upgrades to the Bingham Memorial building, Cornwall school directors felt safe in reducing the facilities budget, noted board Chairman David Donahue. A senior teacher took advantage of an early separation program, which allowed the school to hire a less tenured instructor at a lower cost.
“It ended up being a little bit of money cut from a lot of different line items,” Donahue said.
Cornwall’s grade school population is being estimated at around 79 students, down from 86.
Salisbury voters will be asked to approved a 2011-2012 elementary school budget of $1,432,834, which is down 1 percent from this year’s spending plan of $1,447,257.
Sease pointed to staffing changes, debt retirement and other modest reductions that are leading to the reduced budget request.
Salisbury Community School’s enrollment is being estimated at around 89 students next year, down from 91.
Shoreham voters will be asked to approve a spending plan of $1,383,532, a 3.7-percent decrease compared to this year’s spending plan of $1,437,114.
Sease explained the school was able to make various small cuts, in addition to reducing some hours for a non-classroom instructor who has already been notified. The board also recently hired a new teacher to fill a post that had been vacated by a higher-salaried, veteran teacher.
Shoreham is projecting a grade school population of around 81, down from 86.
The Ripton Elementary School directors have crafted a 2011-2012 budget of $722,946, which proposes spending 5.31-percent less than the current spending plan of $763,567.
School board Chairwoman Carol Ford pointed to some savings derived through the recent hiring of two new teachers at lower salaries than the more senior instructors they are replacing.
The board was also able to lower costs by eliminating an 80-percent paraprofessional position.
Ripton Elementary is estimated to have a student body of 40 children next year, down from 43.
Weybridge voters will decide a 2011-2012 elementary school spending plan of $1,135,495, representing a 6.4-percent reduction from this year’s budget of $1,213,063.
School board Chairman Eben Punderson said savings are being derived in part from a teaching vacancy that is not being filled due to declining enrollment. The budget also reflects a slight reduction in a part-time speech and language position and 1.15 fewer instructional assistant positions.
“This is all resulting from a population decrease (in the school),” Punderson said.
Weybridge’s grade school enrollment estimate for next year is around 61 students, down from 66.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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