Mount Abe keeps spending steady

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union Middle and High School board on Tuesday approved a proposed budget that would level-fund education spending for next fiscal year.
Under the proposal, overall expenses would increase 0.7 percent to $13,542,142, but education spending — the part of the budget that directly affects tax rates — would remain the same as this year at $11,309,068. Additionally, the per pupil spending rate would increase 4.1 percent next year to $13,552.
How might this proposed budget affect property tax rates?
It’s a mixed bag for Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns. ANeSU officials estimate that if voters approve the spending plan on Town Meeting Day then tax rates in Bristol, Monkton and New Haven would rise, while rates should drop in Lincoln and Starksboro. These rates are determined, in part, by the percentage of students in a town who attend Mount Abe.
Click Here for ANeSU Elementary School Budgets
Without the Common Level of Appraisal factored in — a financial mechanism used to equalize taxes statewide — the tax rate for:
•Bristol would rise 3.7 percent to 70.02 cents per $100 of assessment.
•Monkton should rise 0.5 percent to 65.56 cents.
•New Haven should rise 2.8 percent to 82.38 cents. Officials said 60.73 percent of New Haven students will attend Mount Abe, the largest percentage among ANeSU towns.
•Lincoln should drop 1.9 percent to 60.65 cents.
•Starksboro should drop 4 percent to 61.4 cents.
Last month, Mount Abe Co-principal Andy Kepes presented the board with a proposed 2012-2013 spending plan that reflects a 1.9 percent decrease in education spending and would require cutting a teaching position. The board told him to hold onto the teacher and level-fund the budget.
Due to the zero-percent increase in spending, Kepes on Tuesday said Mount Abe would be able to keep a Latin teaching position it would’ve cut under his original proposal. He also said more money would be appropriated to select staff salaries and benefits.
“That (extra) money went primarily toward some salaries,” he said at Tuesday meeting.  “We put some more money back in the (middle school’s) learning center, both in benefits and salaries, and some for the support person who will work with our (administrators) … little bits went to minor adjustments.”
Overall, Kepes was satisfied with the budget proposal.
“I think we’re in a good place,” he said.
The school board unanimously approved the budget for a discussion at the high school district’s annual meeting and a vote on Town Meeting Day.
In the board’s warning for the annual meeting, voters will see that the total spending plan is only $12,862,870. Superintendent Evelyn Howard explained that the roughly $680,000 decrease is due to funds that will be voted on in the Hannaford Career Center budget.
The draft warning explains: “The warning contains only $12,862,870 — the total budget amount minus the Hannaford Career Center tuition ($385,000) and the State’s On-Behalf Payment amount ($294,272).”
Before approving a warning, there was a small dispute between board members over the proposed article to eliminate the three elected positions for community auditor.
Board member Robert Donnis was concerned that these positions were potentially being eliminated in light of recent financial issues at Mount Abe and embezzlement issues around the state.
“It just seems to be a little strange considering the past running of a deficit,” he said.
Many of his colleagues explained the positions are difficult to fill and school finances would still be subjected to review by a professional auditor.
Board chairman Lanny Smith outlined the reasoning behind the proposition.
“We’ve been having a very difficult time filling the position for local auditor and … a suggestion was made repeatedly to eliminate that position. It’s not required by the state of law to have that position. So it is there for the voters to decide.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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