Career Center budget cuts building trades program

MIDDLEBURY — Voters in 17 Addison County towns on March 4 will vote on a proposed 2014-2015 Patricia Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) budget of $3,419,913, representing a 2.73-percent cut in spending that will call for elimination of the center’s building trades program as well as downsizing of the school’s administration.
The PHCC provides vocational and technical education to students residing in the Addison Northeast, Addison Central and Addison Northwest supervisory unions. The center employs 33 full- and part-time staff and faculty offering a dozen programs, ranging from theater to automotive technology.
Lynn Coale, director of the PHCC, noted Vermont’s vocational-technical centers must calculate their enrollment based on a six-semester average and fashion their budgets accordingly. The PHCC’s current budget of $3,515,820 was based on a six-semester average enrollment of 156.33 students. It’s an average pegged to go down by around 15 students, to 141.58, for the 2014-2015 budget year, according to Coale.
Fewer students means less revenues, which is contributing to a higher proposed student tuition rate. Specifically, the rate is projected to jump by 6.8 percent, from the current $17,330 per student to $18,514 per student. Coale and Mark Bouvier, the PHCC’s business manager, explained that the higher tuition rate is not likely to have a big impact on taxpayers, primarily because there will be fewer students attending the center.
Based on current enrollment estimates, Addison Northeast and Addison Northwest each stand to be billed for six fewer students in 2014-2015, so their overall PHCC assessments would go down. Addison Central is expected to be billed for two fewer students, though (as the top sending district) its assessment would increase by around $45,000.
“The total cost (of our budget) is going down,” Coale said. “We are not asking for more money to support us; we’re just asking for more per pupil.”
The PHCC is not unique in seeing its student numbers decline. It is a trend being seen in most Vermont schools, including many in Addison County.
“We are having to recalibrate, just like other schools are having to go smaller,” Coale said.
He added PHCC leadership has, for several years now, advanced the notion that it costs roughly $3.5 million to deliver a quality vocational-technical program to area students who choose to go that route. He pointed to statistics showing the PHCC budget has consistently ranged from around $3.3 million to $3.5 million since the 2009-2010 academic year.
Coale noted the proposed budget reflects the elimination of one full-time teaching position that will in turn result in the loss of the building trades program. It also reflects a reduction of 25 percent of a full-time position within the administrative office. Coale explained that a career center must have at least 150 full-time-equivalent students in order to qualify for state funding for an assistant director. Since the PHCC 2014-15 budget reflects a student enrollment of 141, it will not qualify for such funds and PHCC will not keep its assistant director’s position. Coale said the position’s key responsibilities will be maintained within the context of a new administrative structure that will absorb the aforementioned 0.25-percent cut.
The proposed PHCC budget accounts for step and grade salary increases for staff and teachers. But he noted the PHCC board is in the midst of negotiating a new labor agreement that could require salary/benefits adjustments for center employees.
“I think it’s a really fair budget,” Coale said of the spending plan. “It has taken into consideration declining enrollment. We want to offer quality programs that are broad in scope. We need around $3.5 million to do that.”
People can learn more about the PHCC budget by connecting to the PHCC website, hannafordcareercenter.org. Copies of the budget and annual report can be fount at the PHCC headquarters on Charles Ave.; at its North Campus in Middlebury’s industrial park; and at town clerks’ and superintendents’ offices in Addison County.
Area residents with questions about the spending plan should come to the PHCC annual meeting, slated for Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. at the PHCC. That annual meeting will allow voters to elect PHCC officers and decide on a proposal to place $69,081 of the center’s fund balance into a building and equipment reserve fund.
The PHCC budget will be decided by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 4, at the 17 sending towns’ respective polling places.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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