Mary Hogan proposes spending hike, lower tax

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents on April 11 will vote on a proposed 2012-2013 Mary Hogan Elementary School spending plan of $6,144,811, representing a 4.15-percent increase compared to the current spending plan.
But it should be noted that the budget, approved for warning by ID-4 school directors Monday evening, is projected to result in a 0.86-percent decrease in the current homestead education property tax rate of $1.74 per $100 in property value. That’s due to an anticipated increase in the school’s equalized per-pupil count and a bump in Middlebury’s common level of appraisal (CLA) — both factors outlined in Vermont’s education funding laws that influence tax rates.
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. Middlebury’s CLA is expected to increase from the current 81.96 percent of market value to 86.80 percent, according to Mary Hogan School Co-principal Tom Buzzell.
Buzzell and fellow Co-principal Bonnie Bourne noted the proposed budget allows the school to maintain current programs and staffing levels.
“This budget is pretty unremarkable,” Bourne said. “There are no significant initiatives here.”
It is a spending plan that reflects a reduction in five instructional assistants and a 60-percent full-time-equivalent special educator, Bourne noted. Those reductions reflect the impending graduation of several special needs students to the middle school level, officials said. Bourne stressed those staffers would be following the students to the middle school to ensure continuity of services.
Factors contributing to the proposed 4.15-percent increase in spending, according to Bourne and Buzzell, include:
•  Anticipated rises in fuel and utility costs. The Addison Central Supervisory Union office has recommended budgeting increases of around $6,000 for electricity, $1,200 for propane and more than $21,000 for fuel oil for next year.
•  A boost of $20,000 for computers and other technology-related equipment in the school’s media center. Bourne explained that the school was able to dramatically scale back its media center expenses last year due to a “school improvement grant” from the state. But that money will not be available next year, so the school will have to pick up the slack, according to Bourne.
•  An  increase in ID-4’s share of the ACSU’s school bus contract. Mary Hogan’s share of the contract this year is $90,753, a number that the ACSU business office says should be at $106,648 next year, according to Bourne.
•  The early retirement program. The program, which offers financial incentives for teachers considering retirement, is projected to increase from $88,829 this year to $122,641 next year. More teachers are taking advantage of the program, which increases upfront costs for the district but reduces long-term personnel costs. That’s because the retiring teachers can be replaced with less senior educators at a lower wage.
Mary Hogan teacher salaries collectively are pegged to rise by around $43,000, per terms of an already negotiated labor contract.
There are currently 393 students enrolled at Mary Hogan Elementary. Officials anticipate the school will serve around 400 students during the next few years.
Buzzell and Bourne acknowledged that Mary Hogan students are fortunate to benefit from programming outside of the regular ID-4 budget. The school’s McGilton Fund — which has now accrued to around $700,000 — was established decades ago to help fund “enrichment opportunities” for kids. Interest from the fund has bankrolled student trips to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, tuition to an annual Camp Keewaydin environmental program, basic swimming instruction, ice skating and wall climbing.
The ID-4 school district annual meeting will be held on April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Hogan school gym. It will feature, along with a vote on proposed spending, another significant warning item. Residents will be asked if the district would no longer be required to mail a copy of the district’s annual report, but rather residents would be invited to request that a report be mailed to them at no charge. This would potentially save the district money for mailing, as voters could instead choose to review the annual report on-line.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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