ACSD board to consider major staff cuts: Draft budget reflects 14 teacher layoffs

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District board members knew they would be in for a shock when they asked ACSD administrators to show them what a level-funded budget would look like for the 2018-2019 academic year.
And a shock is what they’ll get on Monday, Dec. 11, when they learn that a level-funded spending plan for the district’s nine schools could translate into a reduction of 14 licensed teachers, 18 paraprofessionals, a principal and a central office worker.
Those would be the main casualties in a $1.9 million batch of potential cuts that ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows will present to district directors Monday evening. It remains to be seen whether the board will ultimately endorse the reductions as presented, or use this initial budget draft as a departure point for a fiscal year 2019 K-12 spending plan for Middlebury Union middle and high schools and the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, noted the average statewide education property tax rate is currently projected to increase by 9.4 cents for fiscal year 2019. Those who pay the statewide rate are likely to see an increase of around 2.65 percent, according to Vermont Department of Taxes Commissioner Kaj Samson.
Gov. Phil Scott last month sent a letter to school officials statewide urging districts to limit per-pupil spending growth to the same rate of growth as wages and the economy, which they said is around 2.5 percent, given recent history. Earlier this year, Scott had encouraged school officials to shoot for level-funded school budgets for next year.
“The climate for this budget season is unprecedented, and some significant unknowns are looming in our state for public education,” Burrows wrote in an email he sent Thursday to members of the “ACSD Community.”
“This year, we dealt with the state’s recapture of $475,000 of our health insurance savings,” he added. “As we enter into this budget season, there are many clear signals from the governor and Agency of Education that further action will be taken in this coming legislative session to curb spending.”
Burrows noted the ACSD’s budget conundrum is being deepened by its enrollment decline, which will in turn reduce the amount of state aid the district figures to receive during the coming years.
“We expect our enrolled students to drop by 50 at MUHS next year, and we project a loss of 100 by 2022,” he stated in his email. “The loss of 50 students is roughly a million dollars in revenue.”
The superintendent’s first draft of possible personnel cuts includes:
•  Paraprofessionals: 14 from Mary Hogan Elementary in Middlebury, 1 from Ripton Elementary, 1 from MUMS, and 2 from MUHS.
•  Licensed teachers: Six from MUHS, five from MUMS, and one each from Shoreham, Salisbury and Cornwall.
•  Administration: A combined total of 1.6 full-time-equivalent positions, which would result in the loss of one principal and two principals covering three as-yet-unidentified schools.
•  ACSD central office: One worker.
“In order to get to a level-funded draft, it was important to look at staffing patterns across the school district and use some metric that is equitable to make decisions about potential reductions,” Burrows said in his email. “We analyzed staff-to-student ratios, of licensed, support staff, and administrative positions.”
District officials have yet to specify which school departments would be affected by the potential layoffs.
“Principals will make determinations and meet with employees once we have received further direction from the board and we have final numbers from the state,” Burrows said.
He acknowledged the difficult choices looming ahead for the district.
“You all know how important all of our positions are in ACSD, and the needs of our students and families are continually increasing,” Burrows said. “Yet we must respond to where we are with our budget in order to get on a stable fiscal platform.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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