Otter Valley board approves 2.3% budget increase

BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School board last week approved a proposed $10,332,550 spending plan for 2012-13. That represents an increase of $233,918 or 2.32 percent over the current spending plan.
There was none of the drama of past year’s budget talks when the fate of two items in the budget — the alternative education Harvest Program and the school resource officer — were in question. For the record, both of those line items are intact.
If passed, the proposed FY13 OV budget would increase the anticipated Homestead Education Tax rate by two cents to $1.34, up from the current rate of $1.32.
The proposed budget reflects spending reductions across the board in a variety of departments, including the following:
•The Extended Learning Coordinator (ELO) position will go from being a full-time position to a 0.40 position, saving $37,700. ELO is a project-based, personalized program that allows student to earn credit toward graduation outside the classroom by getting “real world” experience in a subject or job of interest.
•A high school Brain Cell Support Staff position has also been eliminated for a savings of $32,000.
•A part-time Driver Education position has been cut for a budget reduction of $21,150.
•Several retirement buyouts are now in their third year this year for a reduction of $38,000.
•Due to the retirement of longtime front office secretary Kathleen Mitchell, the line item for secretaries’ salaries dropped by $19,880.
•There has been a personnel change from a family health insurance plan to a single plan, which reduces the budget $11,000.
•Decrease of $30,000 from the Maintenance Repair line and additional expenses will be covered by the sinking fund.
•The school also has a new telephone/Internet contract with Comcast saving $5,000.
•The board opted to end the longtime practice of mailing the school newsletters, saving $3,000 on postage.
•The co-curricular debate program in the middle school has been cut, for a savings of $2,250. The program has dwindled to just a few students in the last two years.
•A net reduction in departments spending of $11,757.
•The local payout for vocational tuition to Stafford Technical Center is down $42,250 to $148,762, a drop of 28.4 percent.
The proposed budget reflects a number of spending increases, including the following:
•French: Increase the current position from 75 percent to full-time, representing a $14,000 increase. The board said the French program has grown due to an increase in enrollment. Additional French classes in the high school will be needed to serve the students now taking French in the middle school. In addition, the teacher will not be taking the insurance benefit, so another $1,000 budgeted for insurance buyout.
•Middle school after-school programs: The district Century 21 grant will be reduced next year. The budget proposal adds $25,000 to fund the after-school clubs for middle school students.
•Outdoor education coordinator: Josh Hardt, who has been one of the driving forces of the Moosalamoo alternative education program, has been leading five outdoor expeditions a year all over New England. They consist of three days and two nights. The board seeks to give Hardt a pay raise of $2,500 to recognize his “significant responsibilities.”
•Online courses: The board has allocated $4,000 for either the Virtual High School and/or to enter into a partnership with Middlebury College’s Middlebury Interactive Languages Program. Faculty will be reallocated to support these online learning opportunities.
The budget also reflects the fact that special education spending is up 6.09 percent to $2,333,528. Teacher’s salaries are up 5.45 percent, per the current union contract, for a total of $2,508,060. Support staff salaries, however, are down almost 60 percent to $84,292 from $134,510.
With passage of the proposed FY13 budget, OV’s equalized per pupil spending will rise from $12,961 to $13,153. That increase will mark spending at 151.8 percent of the state base education amount of $8,723. The Legislature will set final figures for base education spending and the base education tax rate, currently 87 cents for non-residents and $1.36 for residents. The Shumlin administration has indicated that the current numbers could remain unchanged.
Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union towns served by OVUHS — Brandon, Whiting, Leicester, Goshen, Sudbury and Pittsford — will vote on the budget proposal on Town Meeting Day.

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