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Date approved for balloting on Ferrisburgh school budget

FERRISBURGH — When the Vergennes Union High School board on Tuesday decided on a new budget proposal and vote date (see story, Page 1A), those actions triggered a date for a second Ferrisburgh Central School budget vote.
That revote, like the VUHS revote, will be held on Tuesday, May 5.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials had hoped to hold the Ferrisburgh Central and VUHS votes earlier, probably on April 14. But they learned this week that when the Ferrisburgh board on March 12 adopted not only a new budget, but also a separate $5,200 article asking to restore the school’s Spanish Enrichment program, the April date was not possible.
ANwSU Superintendent JoAn Canning told the VUHS board at its Tuesday budget meeting that officials had learned special articles require longer warning periods than budget revotes, thus pushing the two budget revotes further into the future.
When the Ferrisburgh Central School (FCS) board adopted a new budget of about $3.581 million on March 12, it also authorized Canning to make sure both the FCS and VUHS votes will be held at the same time, thus assuring as much turnout and public input as possible.
According to the latest ANwSU estimates, if both VUHS and FCS budgets as proposed pass Ferrisburgh’s residential school tax rate would increase by 7 cents, or about 4.5 percent, to $1.63.
That increase translates to an additional $70 of taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, at least for homeowners who are not eligible for property tax relief under the state’s education tax laws. More than two-thirds of Addison County homeowners received tax adjustments, typically ranging from $1,200 to $2,100.
At their March 12 meeting, FCS board members made a series of budget adjustments that ended up cutting about $39,000 from the $3.62 million plan defeated on Town Meeting Day, 302-267. That defeated budget would have increased FCS spending by about 3 percent.
The board’s new FCS proposal would increase spending over the current level by 1.94 percent, according to Canning, not including the $5,200 Spanish article. FCS board member Chris Kayhart said on Tuesday a number of parents lobbied for the restoration of the Spanish enrichment program.
The FCS board’s new budget makes about $76,000 of reductions to the defeated spending plan, but adds several items, including bringing a $16,000 technology article that lost by two votes on Town Meeting Day into the budget.
Canning said cuts were possible when new information on lower enrollment numbers showed the school could operate with 10 classrooms next fall, down from the current 13.
That change meant the board will not renew the contract of the school’s math interventionist and instead offer the position to a current classroom teacher.
Canning said fewer classrooms also will mean fewer sessions needed for the school’s librarian and music and physical education instructors, increasing savings further to the $76,000 total.
School officials are emphasizing that programming is not being reduced: FCS students will continue to receive the same amount of time in the library and in music and PE classes, but staff members’ hours will be lowered.
Since adopting their first budget, school officials said they also learned they would have to spend $17,000 more for equipment to support students with disabilities. Also, 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.
Thus, while about $76,000 was removed from the budget, about $37,000 was added, leading to the net cut of about $39,000.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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