VUES seeks 7.7 percent budget hike

VERGENNES — On Town Meeting Day voters in Vergennes, Panton and Waltham will be asked to approve a $4.7 million Vergennes Union Elementary School budget that would increase spending by about 7.7 percent over the current level of about $4.36 million.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent JoAn Canning said the VUES board adopted that spending plan on the recommendation of administrators.
The increase is due to several factors, Canning said, including adding a math specialist and accounting for mistakes made in previous budgets at the ANwSU level that have also plagued Vergennes Union High School.
“All the school budgets reflect corrections of past practice of under-budgeting or not including items in the budgets,” Canning said.
Items not properly accounted for in previous VUES budgets, she said, included contracted raises and tuition benefits for teachers, and energy and special education costs.
The process of addressing past accounting problems at the ANwSU office has also been costly, Canning said. ANwSU budgets now being proposed reflect all of those issues, but once they are resolved the going should be smoother moving ahead, she said.
“The financial plan we have in process will serve us well going into the future,” Canning said. “There will be a little bit of pain now.”
Vergennes, Panton and Waltham voters will also be weighing in on a proposed $10.47 million Vergennes Union High School budget and a related $100,000 VUHS capital improvement spending article.
According to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union estimates, the projected tax impacts on the VUES towns of all proposed school spending will range from about 6 cents in Waltham to about 13.6 cents in Vergennes.
ANwSU officials are using for the purpose of their estimates the 2-cent increase in the statewide school tax rate that the Agency of Education has recommended to the Legislature. Any increase in the statewide education tax rate will be incorporated in all ANwSU school tax rates.
The current and estimated school tax rates in the VUES towns are:
• Vergennes: Current, $1.4155, and estimated, $1.5518.
The estimated increase of 13.6 cents would translate to $136 per $100,000 of assessed value.
• Panton: Current, $1.4582 and estimated, $1.5591.
The estimated increase of almost exactly 10 cents would translate to $100 per $100,000 of assessed value.
On the educational side, the proposal to add the math teacher at VUES was a $65,000 decision. Canning said math is the hardest discipline for classroom teachers to incorporate, and the math specialist will work with them at the 2nd- through 4th-grade levels as well as offer help to individual students who need it.
The board also decided to add $16,000 to a $15,000 line item for technology, she said.
VUES also is facing a $110,000 deficit that board members opted to retire over three years, a decision that added $37,000 to their proposal this year.
Also on the ballot will be an article asking voters to approve adding $25,000 to the VUES capital improvement fund.
Canning said VUES board members and administrators understand they are asking for a significant increase, but that they believe doing so is necessary to right the school’s fiscal ship while still providing for students.
“I do believe this is a budget that will meet the school’s needs,” she said, while at the same time it is “attempting to balance them with the needs of the taxpayers.”
Canning said she would be visiting towns to explain that some of the increase is because “we have to have better financial practices and management going forward,” and that the VUES spending is necessary, because “if not, we’re going to have some big impacts on kids.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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