Three RNeSU towns to consider school spending hikes

LEICESTER/WHITING/GOSHEN — The past two years have seen reduced budgets for schools around the state, but the 2012-2013 fiscal year spending at Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union elementary schools looks to be on the rise once again.
“Over the last few years we’ve done so much cutting that there’s not much left to cut,” said Matt Brush, chair of the Leicester Central School board, which warned a budget with a spending increase of 4.6 percent over the current year.
Town residents next week will vote on a 2012-2013 spending plan of $1,060,658; the spending plan for 2011-2012 was $1,013,842.
Whiting Village School spending is on track to increase by 4.9 percent with voter approval of the proposed $530,100 budgets, which is up from $505,408 from the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.
And Neshobe School, which serves most Goshen students, will put a 5.8 percent spending increase to Brandon voters on Town Meeting Day.
Brenda Fleming, RNeSU business manager, said within all three schools, the major budgeted spending increases are for heating and central office expenditures. Schools in the district split transportation, technology and special education costs. And Fleming said RNESU no longer has federal funding to employ a district-wide math teacher, so this year the schools are footing part of that salary, as well.
Brush said the Leicester school board did what it could to manage those costs within its control, but with those costs reduced to a bare minimum and student enrollment expected to remain steady at about 58 students, there was little to be done to offset increases in other areas.
“There are very limited increases on things that we can control,” said Brush.
For a better picture of the cost increases, said Fleming, one must look at the past two budget years. The 2011-2012 budgets showed unsustainable reductions, as many schools cut spending significantly to meet the state-mandated Challenges for Change budget reduction requirements, she said.
Compared with Leicester’s $1,040,086 spending proposal for 2010-2011, the proposed spending for next year represents an increase of only about 2 percent. In Whiting, next year’s proposed spending represents a 4.3 percent rise over 2010-2011 spending.
While final property tax rates will likely not be finalized until July, the Leicester elementary school tax rate (before the state’s Common Level of Appraisal calculation is figured in) are tentatively slated to rise from $1.34 to $1.37 per $100 of property assessment. The estimated increase in Whiting is from $1.06 to $1.15.
Fleming said the Goshen elementary school tax rate fluctuates depending on how many students are in the system, as Goshen tuitions its students to schools in neighboring towns.
In past years, the tax rate has gone from 92 cents to 89 cents, and with more students entering the system this year, the preliminary estimate stands at $1.47.
Pending final numbers from the state, taxpayers in Whiting, Leicester and Goshen will likely be looking at property tax increases. But Brush said cost-cutting must be balanced with the expense it takes to maintain a quality education.
“We’re just trying to do the best for the students and the taxpayers,” he said.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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