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Ferrisburgh Central School board makes reductions in new budget

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents will look at a lower Ferrisburgh Central School budget for a revote that will be timed to coincide with the Vergennes Union High School budget revote. The VUHS board last week eyed April 14 as a vote date.
On this past Thursday, the Ferrisburgh Central School (FCS) board approved a new spending plan of about $3.581 million, $39,113 less than the $3.62 million plan defeated on Town Meeting Day, 302-267. The FCS budget revote date will be set once the VUHS budget revote is set — likely this week.
The new proposal would increase spending over the current level by 1.94 percent, according to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent JoAn Canning. The defeated FCS budget would have increased spending by 2.97 percent.
The budget adopted on Thursday makes about $76,000 of reductions to the defeated spending plan, but adds several items, Canning said.
Canning said cuts were possible when new information on enrollment numbers showed the school could operate with 10 classrooms next fall, down from the current 13.
“We honed in on some updated information we have on class size,” she said.
That change meant the board could opt not to renew the contract of the school’s math interventionist, a savings of about $65,000, and instead offer the position to a current classroom teacher.
Also, Canning said, fewer classrooms mean fewer sessions needed for the school’s librarian and music and physical education instructors, a further savings of about $11,000.
Canning emphasized that programming is not being reduced: She said FCS students will receive the same level of time in the library and in music and physical education classes, but hours of the staff members offering the programs will be lowered.
“This does not reduce the program offerings for the students,” Canning said.
Most notably, additions to the new budget include $16,000 for the FCS technology fund. Voters defeated that amount on March 3 in a separate article, 286-284.
Canning said earlier this month, school officials also learned they would have to spend $17,000 more for equipment to support students with disabilities. Finally, at Principal JoAnn Taft-Blakeley’s request, the board restored $4,000 to help an FCS leadership team bring a Positive Behavior Intervention System to the school.
A number of parents and residents attended Thursday’s meeting, Canning said, after the “board did a good job of getting the message out” that members were seeking feedback.
The message was mixed, she said, with some urging the same budget go out for a second try, but others urging the board to remember the town’s sizable school tax increase after residents passed VUHS and FCS budgets on second votes a year ago.
“They were split in terms of the direction they wanted the board to go,” Canning said, noting that ultimately the board decided it had to “honor the folks that let the board know that they were not happy with the tax increase.”
Before presenting its first budget on March 3, Canning said the board and Taft-Blakely made personnel cuts.
Canning said one teacher will be moving out of state and will not be replaced, and an aide position will be eliminated.
The school’s enrichment position, now at 30 percent, is proposed to be reduced to 20 percent, while Spanish will no longer be offered. The school nurse will also become a 20 percent job, down from 30 percent.
Canning said a number of smaller cuts were also made to items such as classroom technology, supplies and professional development for the principal.
The VUHS board will meet on Tuesday at 6 p.m., when it is expected to make cuts to its defeated $10.47 million spending plan and adopt the April 14 vote date. Ferrisburgh residents also voted against the first VUHS spending plan, 328-243.
Canning said the FCS board gave her the power to set its vote at the same time as the VUHS vote.
Last week, Canning and VUHS administrators offered the VUHS board four tiers of proposed cuts ranging from $60,000 to $240,000. No clear consensus was reached, but several board members recommended a number in the middle of that range.
The Independent will provide ANwSU’s estimates of residential school tax rates when both budgets are made final.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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