UD-3 board prepares to trim budget

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board this month will further refine a 2012-2013 budget draft for Middlebury Union Middle and High schools. The current draft reflects a 4.1-percent increase in spending just to cover contracted teacher salary raises and benefits, projected hikes in energy costs, and a rise in special education transportation expenses.
Board members on Tuesday got a glimpse of a third draft of the UD-3 budget that called for a little more than $16.2 million in spending. That’s up from the current year’s spending plan of about $15.6 million, which was a 2.03-percent decrease from the prior year.
School officials said the current draft allows MUMS and MUHS to maintain current staffing and program levels while covering other fixed costs.
The budget does not yet include the initial interest payment on a 20-year bond issue that will be sought to replace the MUMS roof. That payment, according to ACSU officials, will probably range between about $15,700 and $34,000, depending on whether the new roof is made of asphalt shingles or metal.
With these budget pressures in mind, Addison Central Supervisory Union interim Superintendent Gail Conley has already informed the district’s teachers’ unions about the potential for a reduction in force.
MUHS Principal Bill Lawson said at Tuesday’s meeting that increases in electricity, heating fuel and special education costs represent 1 percent of the overall high school increase. The rest is associated with teachers’ salary increases, he said.
Lawson indicated the only other budget anomaly is $16,000 earmarked for the upcoming New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) re-accreditation of MUHS. The $16,000 will not recur the following year.
“I think staff has done an excellent job trying to contain costs,” Lawson said.
Inga Duktig, MUMS principal, said the budget would preserve staff, programs and level services for middle schoolers during the 2012-2013 academic year.
UD-3 board members acknowledged the need to look at budget cuts, which they agreed will become even more critical during the coming years. That’s because the declining enrollment now felt in ACSU elementary schools will soon hit home at MUMS and MUHS.
Duktig said MUMS is anticipating an incoming 7th-grade class next fall of 147 — a number equal to what will be its exiting 8th-grade class next spring. That would mean a level enrollment of 291 students next year, with the prospect of picking up an additional 10 students who currently attend various local private grade schools.
But the following year, MUMS enrollment is projected to drop to around 252 students. The year after, the student count is expected to drop to and stabilize at around 218.
“There will be some significant adjustments to be made,” Duktig said of future school planning and budgeting to reflect the declining enrollment.
Lawson said MUHS enrollment currently stands at 650 students. The school’s 2012 graduating class of 175 students will be replaced by an incoming 9th-grade class of 150, meaning a net loss of 25. Lawson does not anticipate the enrollment drop will have a big impact on MUHS programming next year.
The UD-3 board will continue is work on the budget at its next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 20, at MUMS. At that point, officials hope to have the latest financial guidelines from the Vermont Department of Education to ensure the UD-3 spending plan doesn’t run afoul of the penalty provisions of Act 60, or trigger the “two-vote” mandate for budgets that exceed 1 percent of New England’s inflation index.
In other action on Tuesday, the UD-3 board:
•  Pre-approved a list of contractors and roofers to bid on the replacement of the MUMS roof. The UD-3 board announced last month that the current, 14-year-old roof — original to the building — is failing and needs to be replaced. The board is deciding whether to suggest a new asphalt-shingle roof or a more costly standing-seam, metal roof that would be more durable. Plans call for ACSU voters on Town Meeting Day to cast ballots on a 20-year bond to finance the project.
The board pre-approved Neagley & Chase Construction Co., Reap Construction, Naylor & Breen Builders and the Quinn Company to bid as contractors for the project. They also pre-approved, for bids, a list of roofers that includes Reap Construction, Naylor & Breen, Neagley & Chase, Bannister Custom Exterior, A.C. Hawthorne and RTD Roofing.
School officials are expected to decide in January whether to propose an asphalt roof (upwards of $630,000) or a metal roof (more than $1 million).
•  Selected Delphia Excavating among three bidders vying for a contract to make drainage improvements at the MUMS athletic fields. Delphia’s bid of $33,988 was $58 higher than the lowest bid (from Champlain Construction), but the UD-3 board went with Delphia because it said it could start the work next week and finish within three weeks. The board has the right to pick the second-lowest bidder if that bid is within 1 percent of the lowest bid.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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