ACSU school budgets unveiled

MIDDLEBURY — Residents in the Addison Central Supervisory Union towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Shoreham, Salisbury and Weybridge will soon vote on 2012-2013 elementary school spending plans that in many cases reflect small increases in spending but decreases in education property taxes.
The proposed budgets, according to ACSU interim Superintendent Gail Conley, show a commitment by school directors to keep expenses low.
“The school boards have been doing their best to live within the guidelines of the governor, which is to stay as close to (level-funded) as possible,” said Conley.
At the same time, he said many of the budgets reflect an ongoing trend of declining enrollment and an increase in the common level of appraisal (CLA), which is used in calculating local education property tax rates.
Consequently, officials estimate that homestead education tax rates in three of the six towns will drop, with the rate remaining level in Weybridge, and rising in two towns.
Any increases, school officials said, are primarily associated with contracted bumps in personnel salaries and benefits.
Middlebury, the seventh ACSU town, does not vote on its Mary Hogan Elementary School budget until April.
Ripton Elementary School directors are proposing a 2012-2013 budget of $775,360, a 5.4-percent bump compared to this year. Officials initially announced the proposed spending plan would require two votes at town meeting, believing the budget had triggered provisions of Vermont’s Act 82.
That law requires school districts to limit budget increases to the rate of inflation, plus one percent. Districts that fail to do so must hold one vote on the portion of the budget that falls under inflation plus one percent, and then a separate vote on the portion that exceeds that amount.
With that in mind, Ripton was preparing to warn two votes — one for $758,245, and another for $17,115, the amount thought to exceed the Act 82 limit. That second vote was to cover costs of a new Spanish language offering and an after-school program.
But ACSU interim Superintendent Gail Conley subsequently reported the original budget calculation did not reflect expenses — such as special education costs — that districts are allowed to deduct from the Act 82 formula. As a result, the $775,360 budget in fact falls under the Act 82 threshold and will not require two votes, he said.
The budget reflects an estimated residential school tax rate of $1.584 per $100 in property value in Ripton, That would represent a 17.2-percent decrease in the current rate of $1.914 per $100, in large part due to an increase of 24 percent in Ripton’s CLA, to a total of 96 percent. The town recently conducted a reappraisal of town-wide real estate.
The CLA is a town’s ratio of actual real estate market value compared to its assessed grand list value, as determined by the state’s analysis of property sales in the town. If a CLA increases, it has the effect of lowering a tax rate.
Ripton is anticipating a three-student drop in its student count, to a total of 40 next year.
The Bingham Memorial School budget is pitched at $1,337,935 next year, and increase of 2.9 percent compared to this year. The residential school tax rate is being estimated at $1.535 per $100 in property value, which would be a 1.4 percent bump compared to the current rate of $1.514 per $100.
Cornwall’s CLA went up this year by a modest 1.66 percent. The town’s student count is expected to drop by two to 77.
Bridport Central School’s 2012-2013 spending plan is proposed at $1,331,195, a 0.15-percent increase compared to the current budget.
The town’s residential school tax rate is projected to increase by 5.23 percent, in part because Bridport’s CLA went down by 1.85 percent this year (to 99.81 percent).
The town is anticipating at least two fewer students this fall, for a total of around 73.
School directors are proposing an elementary school budget of $1,426,401, a 3.1-percent hike compared to this year. But Shoreham’s residential school tax rate is pegged to decrease by 4.65 percent to $1.516 per $100 in property value.
The main reason? Shoreham’s CLA has increased by 9 percent this year to a total of 102 percent, according to Conley.
The town’s student count is expected to decline by around two students to a total of approximately 78.
Voters in Salisbury will consider a 2012-2013 spending plan of $1,447,319, up 1 percent over the current budget.
Thanks in part to an 8.6-percent bump in the CLA to 85.5 percent, Salisbury’s residential school tax rate is expected to decline by 3.8 percent to $1.763 per $100 in property value.
Salisbury is predicting a five-student drop in its school enrollment, for a total of 84.
Weybridge voters in March will be asked to approve a 2012-2013 elementary school spending plan of $970,277, representing a 14.55-percent decrease to reflect an ongoing trend of declining enrollment.
This is the third year in a row that Weybridge school directors are pitching a reduced budget. Town voters last year OK’d a $1,135,495 spending plan that amounted to a 6.4-percent decrease compared to the previous year.
School officials recognized that cuts were again in order for next year, as the Weybridge school’s population is expected to drop from the current 51 students to around 40 next fall. Weybridge school directors have already been involving citizens in discussions about steps the community could take to keep Weybridge elementary viable amid a shrinking student count.
The proposed $970,277 budget reflects one fewer full-time teaching position, a 0.5-percent reduction in a learning specialist position, and a 10-percent reduction in the principal’s post.
Weybridge’s residential school tax rate is expected to stay level at $1.707 per $100 in property value. The town’s CLA is holding steady at 89.3 percent.
Meanwhile, ID-4 directors are still reviewing drafts for a 2012-2013 Mary Hogan Elementary School budget. Karen Lefkoe, ID-4 board chairwoman, said the plan is likely to feature a small increase in spending, but perhaps no increase in the school tax rate.
“We will have a more firm draft in mid-February,” Lefkoe said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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