Monkton Central board warns school budget revote

MONKTON — The Monkton Central School board on Thursday evening warned for voter consideration a new spending proposal that shifts resources within the school without increasing the size of the budget.
The sum of the proposal, around $2.82 million, is $200 less than the version voters rejected on Town Meeting Day by a tally of 231 to 178.
If passed, the budget would represent a 9.3 percent spending increase over the present fiscal year. The new vote will be Tuesday, April 14.
After the Town Meeting Day defeat of the original budget, the board created a community survey soliciting input on the new budget from voters, and received 118 responses. Forty-six percent indicated they wished the budget proposal to be less expensive than the original draft, 30 percent thought it should remain the same and 22 percent thought it should be increased to reinstate staff slated to be laid off.
Board chair Kristin Blanchette said the board incorporated this input into their new proposal.
“The majority of registered voter input was to keep the budget number the same or decrease it, and the main message from registered Monkton voters was to reallocate funds to decrease class sizes,” Blanchette said.
Blanchette added that she was grateful so many Monktonites offered feedback, which the board found helpful.
Board member Marikate Kelley said the new proposal differs from the plan voters defeated in March, as it:
•  Eliminates a proposed full-time behavioral interventionist.
•  Adds 0.2 full-time equivalent to the school counselor’s position.
•  Restores the full-time teacher position set to be cut in the first budget.
•  Also restores a half-time general education staff position.
Kelley said she supports the new budget draft because she believes it represents the wishes of voters, based on the results of the community survey.
“I think it balances the input we received from members of the community on whether to increase, maintain or decrease the budget, and reallocates funds to better meet the educational needs of our students,” she said.
Kelley said the board was also buoyed by administrators’ efforts to make the school more efficient without increasing spending.
She said by restoring the teacher position, the school won’t have 5th- and 6th-grade classrooms with 25 students next year. The restoration of the general education aide will increase the resources available to students, especially students who may be struggling.
“The administration also worked hard to reallocate funds to restore some general education support to an early intervention program that has shown success in helping to improve the performance of our economically disadvantaged students,” Kelley said.
The board’s job was also made easier by the fact that the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union board last month lowered its Fiscal Year 2016 budget by $75,000, which translated into a decrease in Monkton’s supervisory union assessment of almost $8,000.
The Monkton Central School board will meet again on Thursday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. The board will host a budget information session on the eve of the new vote, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the school gym.
Budget revotes for spending plans for Mount Abraham Union High School and Bristol Elementary School will also take place this spring; no dates have been set for those revotes, though the Bristol board is meeting Monday evening and the Mount Abe board is meeting Tuesday evening.
A reconsideration petition by citizens in Starksboro forced a new meeting of voters in the school district, scheduled for May 2, to decide the fate of that school’s budget.

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