Middlebury to vote Wednesday on $6.4 million school budget

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on Wednesday, April 10, will meet at Mary Hogan Elementary School to decide a proposed 2013-2014 spending plan of $6,418,788, representing a 4.46-percent increase. The budget reflects, among other things, a growing commitment to science, technology, engineering and math programs.
But thanks in part to a student enrollment that’s expected to grow by 10 next fall (to a total of around 405), the property tax-affecting portion of the budget is expected to rise by only 0.82 percent, according to school administrators.
The spending plan, according to Mary Hogan Elementary Co-principal Tom Buzzell, preserves all current education programs and adds 0.5 of a full-time teaching position for an expanded Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program. This program, according to ID-4 school board Chairwoman Ruth Hardy, will provide increased science instruction for all students and more in-depth STEM opportunities for students interested in math and science challenges. This will allow the school to offer more real-world applications for their learning, beyond merely reading about science and math concepts in textbooks. Pertinent props, experiments and demonstrations are to be increasingly woven into the curriculum. It is an approach that ID-4 officials believe will allow students to gain a better understanding of career opportunities at an earlier age.
“I am pleased that the Mary Hogan School board and administration have put together a fiscal year 2014 budget that features a modest spending increase and an even more modest tax rate increase, while providing expanded educational opportunities and support for our growing number of students,” Hardy said.
Other factors influencing the proposed 2013-2014 budget include:
•  Adding 15 minutes per day of compensated time for paraprofessionals, amounting to $25,500 in additional spending overall. This comes in conjunction with the board’s decision to lengthen the school day by 15 minutes, as allowed by the current teachers’ contract.
•  Additional reading instructional materials, at a cost of $9,000.
•  $27,406 for school-based clinician services provided to some students through the Counseling Service of Addison County.
•  A combined total of $16,850 for various school improvements, including landscaping; and replacement of bathroom stalls, some furniture and carpets.
•  $3,000 for new computers.
•  $3,000 for professional development.
The school’s health insurance costs are pegged to go up 11 percent. School teachers during the 2013-2014 academic year will work under terms of a new contract calling for an average 3.4-percent increase in salaries and benefits.
The proposed budget does not include a second-language (Spanish) program that the ID-4 board had been discussing for the past few years. The board elected to take a pass on such a program, at an estimated cost of $144,671, in favor of the greater focus on math and sciences.
Officials have decided to delay implementation of a second-language program so that it can be done in concert with the other elementary schools in the Addison Central Supervisory Union.
In an effort to boost student performance, Mary Hogan Elementary officials are preparing a school improvement plan for professional development and for the purchase of instructional materials targeting student achievement for all enrollees.
Per-pupil spending at Mary Hogan Elementary remains comfortably below financial penalty thresholds prescribed under Act 68, the state’s education funding law, according to Buzzell.
Mary Hogan Elementary’s facilities will be more efficient next year thanks to some projects performed last year. Those include updating of the school’s phone system, an improved paper recycling contract and a complete replacement of interior and exterior lights with more energy efficient fixtures. Those new light fixtures are projected to save the school around $1,000 per month in electricity bills, Buzzell said.
“I hope our community will support this responsible budget and the important work of our school,” Hardy said.
In addition to the vote on the budget, the warning for the April 10 meeting features a request to place $100,000 (from a fund balance) into an education reserve fund.
The annual ID-4 meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the school.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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