$4.9 million Bristol Elementary budget on ballot this Tuesday

BRISTOL — Bristol residents on Tuesday will cast ballots on a new Bristol Elementary School spending plan for next year that shaves a fraction of a percent off the proposal they defeated on Town Meeting Day. But despite asking for $2,700 less in spending, the new budget would restore some instructional positions targeted to be cut by reducing spending in other areas.
The school board on Monday evening warned the vote on the new proposal for Tuesday, April 14, the same day new Monkton Central School and Mount Abraham Union High School spending plans will be considered by voters. Bristol voters can cast ballots on the Bristol Elementary and Mount Abe spending proposals between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Holley Hall.
Bristol voters on March 3 rejected a proposed fiscal year 2016 Bristol Elementary School budget of $4.931 million by a tally of 377 to 267. The new budget proposes spending of $4.929 million and represents a 2.71 percent spending increase over the current year.
In presenting options to the school board, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Adams and Bristol Elementary Principal Sandy Jump prepared a series of draft spending proposals ranging from $4.929 million to $5.1971 million, increasing at increments of $25,000.
That most expensive option would have raised spending from current levels by 8.3 percent. It would have cost $265,000 more than the plan voters rejected in March but would have put all of the proposed staffing cuts — one teacher and five non-special education aides — back into the budget.
The budget figure the board warned Monday would spare the jobs of two aides that were set to be eliminated, but make cuts in other areas to arrive at a budget figure less than what voters considered on Town Meeting Day.
As compared to the first budget proposal, the new draft increases the line item for staff assistant salaries by $58,269. Health insurance and payroll tax obligations due to that salary increase bring that total spending increase for staff to $99,190.
To account for those increases, the board decreased line items for maintenance of the roof and grounds by a combined total of $74,000. It also decreased the line item for furniture by $4,000 and zeroed a line item that would have contributed $10,000 into a maintenance sinking fund. Those combined savings total $88,000.
Based on tax projections for the original budget proposal, the BES portion of the education tax rate would be 76.20 cents per $100 of assessed value of a home. The ANeSU did not provide projections based on the new proposed spending figure by press time, but as the new proposal is just 1.5 percent less than the first proposal, residents could expect a slightly lower tax rate than originally anticipated.
Board chair Steve Barsalou said he believed the new plan was a good compromise, but worried about the effect of spending less on maintaining the building, especially its roof, which sprung a leak last year that needed repair.
“Those things have a tendency to come back and bite you,” Barsalou said.
The board’s job of balancing the budget was made easier by the ANeSU board’s decision to decrease the FY 2016 spending for the supervisory union, which in turn deceased Bristol’s assessment by $13,852.
Adams endorsed the Bristol Elementary spending proposal as a “balanced budget” that represents a compromise between keeping spending down and saving all the staff positions that would have been cut under the first budget.
“You’re doing your best to control education spending,” Adams told the board. “This is not an austerity budget by any means; you’re increasing spending by 2.7 percent.”
Adams added that he did not think it would be a good idea to put a more expensive budget in front of voters after the initial defeat.
If approved, the new budget would cut one teacher and three non-special education assistants. But Adams said the district may be able to avoid layoffs.
“We believe, with the exception of the library position, that we may be able to take care of it through attrition,” Adams said.
Principal Sandy Jump also supported the new budget proposal.
“We’re looking at the compromise because we need to be fiscally responsible and meet the needs of students,” she said.
Both Jump and Adams said though the new budget proposal still calls for a staff reduction, administrators will work with faculty to make sure students receive the same level of education.
Jump offered the example that even though an aide may be primarily assigned to one or a group of students, all the students in a classroom benefit.
“Once a student has met their goal, (aides) can work with other students,” Jump explained. “They’re not always working with the same student continuously.”
In advance of the vote, the Bristol Elementary School board will host an information session for voters on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in Holley Hall. 

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