UD-3 board agrees on school budget with 2.7% spending increase

MIDDLEBURY — UD-3 school directors are poised to approve a draft 2013-2014 budget for Middlebury Union middle and high schools that reflects a 2.71-percent increase in spending, but officials don’t want to approve the plan until they receive more solid state aid information from Montpelier.
“I think bringing (the budget) in below 3 percent still allows us to maintain our programs,” said Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Gail Conley.
Conley, ACSU Business Manager Laura Nassau and MUMS and MUHS administrators led the UD-3 board through further honing of the budget on Dec. 4. That initial draft called for a spending plan of $16,719,461, which amounted to a 3.8-percent spending hike. Board members encouraged school officials to sharpen their pencils and come up with a more austere plan, which they delivered on Dec. 4. That revised proposal of $16,543,442 shaves $176,019 from the original draft and includes such specific cuts as:
•  A $48,492 reduction in drivers education and second language staffing at MUHS.
•  Elimination of a full-time aide position at the high school library, for a savings of $33,186.
•  A $15,000 reduction in electricity expenses at MUMS due to the proposed installation of more energy efficient lighting.
•  $14,000 less for the MUMS transportation budget based on anticipated need.
•  A combined total of $25,900 in cuts to equipment, technology travel, supplies and furniture accounts at the middle school.
The new draft is still $435,828 higher than the current budget, with major drivers being fixed costs. Nassau recently told the board on Nov. 30 that roughly $200,000 of the increase is related to a negotiated 3-percent increase in teacher salaries; another $200,000 is being driven by a projected 14-percent increase in health insurance costs; $78,000 is related to debt service on the new MUMS roof; and more than $75,000 is associated with an expected hike in heating fuel costs.
ACSU administrators said the proposed budget includes $100,000 that will be placed into UD-3’s “Capital Reserve and Replacement Fund.”
Due in large part to an expected decrease in UD-3’s pupil count (around 50 students) next year, education spending per pupil for the district is expected to increase by 4.2 percent, according to Nassau. Taking into consideration an expected 5-cent increase in the statewide homestead tax rate, the budget would generate a 7.7-percent increase in the secondary school education property taxes for the seven communities that feed UD-3 schools. When prorated and adjusted by the Common Level of Appraisal (assuming no change) for each town, the secondary education tax rate is expected to range from a low of 2.1 percent to a high of 17.6 percent in the towns.
UD-3 schools serve the communities of Middlebury, Salisbury, Ripton, Shoreham, Cornwall, Weybridge and Bridport.
 Conley and UD-3 board Chairman Leonard Barrett anticipate the proposed budget will be ready for a board vote by their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18. At that point, Nassau and Conley expect to have more firm data from the Vermont Department of Education on how much state aid to education will be available.
“The state numbers are kind of scary,” said Barrett, who is also concerned about the projected rise in health insurance premiums.
Barrett does not anticipate his board will ask school administrators to do any more budget cutting beyond what they have already done.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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