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Middlebury residents OK ID-4 budget, playground

MIDDLEBURY — Eighty-five Middlebury voters turned out at the annual ID-4 meeting on April 9 to overwhelmingly approve a proposed 2014-2015 budget of $6,647,165 for Mary Hogan Elementary School and to authorize construction of a new $225,000 playground project.
Both referenda passed by resounding voice votes after what ID-4 Chairwoman Ruth Hardy described as some “great questions and discussion.”
While the 85 voters who came out last Wednesday represented a small fraction of a Middlebury checklist of more than 4,300, it proved a substantial increase in turnout compared to previous years, when there have often been just a few dozen people deciding what is a substantial budget.
“I think our board did a lot of work to try and get people to come to the meeting,” Hardy said. She believes the customary ID-4 annual report and postcard; her public information article printed in the Addison Independent; and e-mail prompts all helped boost voter interest in the meeting this year.
Hardy also believes there has been a renewed sense of civic engagement in Middlebury this year after a Town Meeting Day ballot that featured some hotly contested elections and referenda.
The 2014-15 Mary Hogan Elementary budget reflects a 3.56-percent hike that is primarily being driven by increases in employee salaries and health care benefits, as well as by a proposal to establish a fourth 1st grade class at the growing school. The school currently serves 408 children grades K-12 and projections call for an additional four students next year. There are currently around 70 kindergartners who will matriculate to the 1st grade next year. An additional 1st/2nd grade teacher and a paraprofessional will be added to ensure the school is able to stay within its guideline of keeping classroom enrollment at around 16 children for grades K-2.
The budget reflects a 3-percent salary increase for teachers next school year and a 4.5-percent increase in health care premiums. The current ID-4 teachers’ contract expires on July 1, though Addison Central Supervisory Union boards are in the process of ratifying a new three-year deal for all schools within the district.
Also endorsed at the April 9 meeting was a plan to replace the 27-year-old Kidspace playground with a new structure. The new playground — to be provided by Pettinelli & Associates of Burlington — will occupy an area 93 feet by 76 feet. It will be made primarily of powder-coated steel, with various plastic components that include slides and climbing hand-holds. It also includes such features as an inter-connected series of ramps, bridges, rope climbers and towers with multiple slide and climbing elements.
The $225,000 cost will be paid entirely through gifts, grants and reserve funds that the school has saved during the past several years.
Hardy said groundbreaking on the new structure will occur just after school lets out later this spring, with installation of the playground expected to take around two weeks.
In other action at their annual meeting, ID-4 voters:
• OK’d the transfer of $100,865 from the school’s fiscal year 2013 unassigned fund balance (currently containing $209,073) to the education reserve fund
• Paid tribute to longtime former Principal Bonnie Bourne.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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