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Ferrisburgh backs Central School spending plan on second try

FERRISBURGH — In a second 2015 vote on a Ferrisburgh Central School budget, Ferrisburgh voters on Tuesday approved two spending articles totaling $3,592,402 for the 2015-2016 school year. The result will be an increase of about 2 percent over current FCS spending.
Because a second Vergennes Union High School budget proposal was defeated on Tuesday, 722-676, despite support in Ferrisburgh, the tax impact of Tuesday’s vote is difficult to assess.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials had estimated passing both a $10.31 million VUHS plan and the FCS budget would trigger a 7-cent increase in the Ferrisburgh residential school tax rate.
That increase of about 4.5 percent if both budgets passed would have moved the town’s homestead school tax rate to $1.63.
But that estimate also assumed a two-cent increase in the statewide tax rate, and the Legislature is now eyeing a plan that would not increase the current 98-cent statewide homestead rate. Local lawmakers last week said the situation in Montpelier remains fluid.
The major article Ferrisburgh voters backed on Tuesday was a $3,587,202 budget proposal. The tally ran 346-234 in favor, or about 60-40 percent.
Residents also supported a separate article preserving a $5,200 Spanish enrichment program, 303-276, or about 52-48 percent.
The total of those two articles is the new $3,592,402 spending plan.
Ferrisburgh voters also backed the $10.31 million VUHS plan, 324-253. Only Waltham among ANwSU towns joined Ferrisburgh in backing that budget proposal, however.
A second option, to add another $156,000 to equal the VUHS plan beaten on Town Meeting Day, lost in Ferrisburgh, 320-257. That second measure was handily defeated in four of the five ANwSU communities.
ANwSU Superintendent JoAn Canning said school officials appreciated Ferrisburgh’s turnout and backing for its schools.
“I want to thank the Ferrisburgh community for a very good showing and their show of support for Vergennes Union High School as well as the Ferrisburgh elementary school,” Canning said. “Clearly, we were able to mobilize parents this time, and that community is very proud of its schools.”
Canning said she hoped to convene the VUHS board next week to lay the groundwork for another VUHS vote in early June (see story on Page 1A).
Tuesday’s FCS balloting in Ferrisburgh was only the second revote of an FCS budget; the first came a year ago, when school taxes increased sharply.
Tuesday’s revote was necessary because residents rejected a $3.62 million spending plan on Town Meeting Day, 302-267. That defeated budget would have increased FCS spending by about 3 percent.
The FCS board in March made adjustments that netted about $39,000 of spending reductions in adopting its second budget.
It included about $76,000 of reductions to the defeated 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 allowed personnel savings, officials said, without cuts to programs.
On the other hand, since adopting their first budget school officials 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 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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