Voters back local high school budgets

ADDISON COUNTY — Residents of Addison County’s three school districts and of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union joined a statewide trend and offered strong support for proposed school spending.
Backing for the region’s four union high schools ranged from 59.7 in favor of Otter Valley’s proposed budget to 66.7 percent for the UD-3 budget that funds both Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury Union Middle School.
And support for the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center spending in Middlebury spiked even higher, with 71.1 percent of Addison Central, Northeast and Northwest supervisory union voters backing that budget.
ANwSU Superintendent Tom O’Brien said he couldn’t speak precisely for administrators and school board members outside of his Vergennes district, but that he’s fairly sure school officials around the region understand well the balancing act the times require when creating budgets.
Reportedly, only one school budget in Vermont — in Colchester — was defeated on Tuesday.
“There’s a sensitivity to what the economy brought us to consider, and recognition that people are struggling in their own lives. And asking them to support the schools as well, we need to take that into account … How can we maintain and improve our schools, and maintain the support of our communities?” O’Brien said. “Across the state it was probably a similar point of view when the budgets were put together this year.”
The vote in favor of a roughly $16.1 million UD-3 proposal ran almost exactly two-to-one in favor, 1,844-919.
That spending plan called for a 3.18-percent spending increase compared to this year and will require a slight hike in ACSU towns’ homestead education tax rate.
MUHS Principal Bill Lawson said the final budget eliminates dance classes and one section of art class, and cuts three full-time special education aides, a move made possible by an expectation of fewer students requiring services next year.
The budget avoided previously suggested cuts in the foreign language and drivers’ education programs. It covers contracted salary and benefit increases and maintains most current offerings. But UD-3 officials said more cuts are likely in the near future due to declining enrollment in ACSU elementary schools.
Addison Northeast voters offered similar support for a proposed $12.86 million Mount Abraham Union High School budget, backing it by 1,572-836, or roughly 65.3-34.7 percent.
The budget called for a spending hike of just 0.7 percent, although per-pupil spending would rise by about 4 percent.
The Mount Abe board had looked at a proposal that would have cut spending by almost 2 percent, but instead opted to keep a Latin teacher on board and go with a level-funding plan.
ANeSU officials estimated that, prior to calculations for common levels of appraisal (CLAs) in each town, tax rates in Bristol, Monkton and New Haven could rise slightly, while rates could drop a little in Lincoln and Starksboro. 
ANwSU voters gave an $8.97 million Vergennes Union High School budget proposal a 997-599 thumbs up. In percentage terms the margin translated to 62.4-37.6 percent, and solid majorities in each of the five ANwSU towns backed the plan.
The budget will increase spending at VUHS by a little less than 2 percent — the budget will essentially revert back to spending there during the 2007-2008 academic year — after years of either little or no increases or slight decreases.
ANwSU officials projected decreases or all-but-level school tax rates in the five communities if the VUHS and three ANwSU elementary school budgets passed.
Residents in the six Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union towns served by OVUHS — Brandon, Whiting, Leicester, Goshen, Sudbury and Pittsford — approved a 2012-2013 spending plan of about $10.33 million, 1,144-77.
The budget represents an increase of almost $234,000, or roughly 2.3 percent, over current spending.
The new OV budget will increase the anticipated Homestead Education Tax rate by two cents to $1.34, up from the current rate of $1.32, according to the RNeSU central office. Tax rates in individual towns will change depending on CLAs and percentage of students at OV.
The budget reflects a number of spending cuts, including reduced hours for the Extended Learning Coordinator (ELO) position and elimination of a high school Brain Cell Support Staff position has also been eliminated for a savings of $32,000 and a part-time driver education position.  
Residents in Addison County’s three supervisory unions each voted on their share of a roughly $3.42 million Hannaford Career Center budget, and backed it, 4,880-1,851.
The budget will increase spending by 2.41 percent, almost $81,000, but cut two courses. Hannaford’s tuition rate will also increase by 4.4 percent ($383 per full-time enrollee) under the budget.
The two courses to be cut are video technology and sustainable landscapes. Those proposed cuts drew protests that failed to change the decision, largely because, officials said, of low enrollment among Hannaford’s 160 projected students in the courses.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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