VUES eyes surplus to retain programs

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union Elementary School board on Jan. 5 looked at two spending proposals for the 2016-2017 school year, one that would cut about $31,000 from the current $4.7 million spending level and another that would subtract another $55,000, which would mean residents won’t have to pay penalties under Act 46.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent JoAn Canning said the VUES board was reluctant to make the additional level cuts, the largest of which was $18,170 to a secretary position, and others of which included support for extracurricular activities, crossing guards, supplies, the school library, health services and mentoring.
“They’re wanting to maintain the programs,” Canning said. “They want to make sure students get the proper intervention.”
Canning said the school does have a fund balance that can be applied toward retaining at least some of the items on the second list of cuts, although the major reduction in the higher budget is likely to stand: A teacher is expected to retire and be replaced by a less expensive replacement, and the school’s math interventionist will move back into the classroom to fill that vacancy. That higher budget also cut supplies and equipment.
Canning said the board asked her and Principal June Sargent to “prioritize bringing some things back” before the board meets again in the school library at 6 p.m. on Jan. 18, and she does not expect board members to approve the lower of the two budgets as proposed.
“The board all felt strongly they did not want to get down to the (Act 46) caps,” she said.
Like other ANwSU boards, the VUES board is at least considering holding its budget vote later than Town Meeting Day (see story on Page 1).
Doing so would allow voters to cast ballots while knowing the fate of the union-wide vote on whether to unify ANwSU under one-board governance.
It is also possible the Legislature by then would have acted to delay or revise the Act 46 penalty for high per-pupil spending that is problematic for about half of Vermont’s schools, including those in ANwSU, particularly Vergennes Union High School, which is faced with a deficit and drops in student enrollment and state revenue. 

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