UD-3 seeks 3.18% spending boost

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 board on Tuesday agreed to present voters with a 2012-2013 budget of about $16.1 million, representing a 3.18-percent spending increase compared to this year.
While school officials are awaiting firmer state aid information from Montpelier, they are estimating the budget would require a homestead education property tax rate of $1.506 per $100 in property value, representing a 1.4-percent increase compared to this year’s rate of $1.503.
This figure does not include the elementary school expenses for each of the seven towns served by UD-3, which includes Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
The board’s first budget draft in November reflected a 4.1-percent increase, which officials whittled down to a 3.35-percent hike in December.
School directors felt the need to hold the increase even lower, however, in deference to property taxpayers and to ensure the district does not run afoul of state laws that can impose financial penalties or two-vote requirements for spending plans that exceed certain education spending thresholds.
MUHS principal Bill Lawson said the final budget reflects elimination of dance classes (but not the dance team) and one section of art class. It also represents a reduction of three full-time special education aides. Those paraprofessional cuts are being made possible by an expectation of fewer students requiring services next year, according to Lawson.
It’s a budget that was able to steer clear of previously suggested cuts in the foreign language and drivers’ education programs, officials noted.
“We were trying to keep it under 3.4 percent,” said Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Gail Conley. “These were careful reductions.”
The board endorsed the budget for public vote without much debate. Salisbury board member Laura Galvin cast the lone dissenting vote.
Voters will weigh in on the proposed UD-3 budget by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6, in the ACSU-member towns of Middlebury, Cornwall, Weybridge, Bridport, Shoreham, Salisbury and Ripton.
The spending plan covers contracted salary and benefit increases and maintains most current offerings for students. But UD-3 officials served notice that substantial cuts are likely in the offing in the near future, as declining enrollment in the elementary schools makes its way into the middle and high schools.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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