Ferrisburgh Central board offers $39K cut in new proposal

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Tuesday will decide the fate of a second Ferrisburgh Central School budget proposal, one that will increase spending over the current level by 1.94 percent.
The FCS board’s new proposal calls for spending of about $3.581 million for the 2015-2016 school year. The board in March made adjustments that netted about $39,000 of spending reductions in adopting its second spending plan.
The $3.62 million spending plan that lost on Town Meeting Day, 302-267, would have increased FCS spending by about 3 percent.
That budget setback marked both the second year in a row and the second time ever that Ferrisburgh voters said no to an FCS budget.
School taxes increased sharply in Ferrisburgh a year ago. Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials are projecting another increase this year, but not as dramatic a rise, if both the FCS and Vergennes Union High School budgets pass on Tuesday. ANwSU residents on Tuesday will also vote on a two-tier VUHS plan (see related story).
The first article on the VUHS ballot will ask ANwSU residents to back a plan that includes about $156,000 of cuts from the $10.47 million proposal that lost on Town Meeting Day. The second article asks for a revote on the Town Meeting Day amount.
Passing both the lower $10.31 million VUHS plan and the FCS budget would trigger a 7-cent increase in the Ferrisburgh residential school tax rate, according to ANwSU estimates.
That increase of about 4.5 percent would bring the town’s homestead school tax rate to $1.63.
That change would also translate to an additional $70 of taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, at least for homeowners who do not receive prebates. More than two-thirds of Addison County homeowners received tax adjustments, typically ranging from $1,200 to $2,100, in the most recent year for which data is available.
The FCS board will hold an informational meeting on the budget at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the school gym.
The FCS board’s second budget proposal made about $76,000 of reductions to the defeated spending plan, but added items, including bringing into the budget a separate $16,000 technology article that lost by two votes on Town Meeting Day.
School and ANwSU officials said cuts from the first proposal were made possible when information on lower enrollment numbers showed the school could operate with 10 classrooms next fall, down from the current 13.
That change means the board will not renew the contract of the school’s math interventionist and instead offer the position to a current classroom teacher.
ANwSU Superintendent JoAn Canning said fewer classrooms also will mean fewer sessions needed with and thus cuts in the hours 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.
On the other hand, 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.
Not included in the budget or the tax calculations is a separate $5,200 ballot article that would restore a Spanish enrichment program. The board initially cut the program, but board member Chris Kayhart said in March a number of parents lobbied for its restoration, and the article was added to the ballot.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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