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Spending and enrollment are dropping at Hannaford Career Center

MIDDLEBURY — For the second year in a row, Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) officials are proposing an almost level-funded spending plan to taxpayers in the 17 towns that send students to Addison County’s vocational-technical center in Middlebury.
The proposed fiscal year 2018-2019 budget request is for $3,468,524, which represents a 0.40-percent ($14,025) decrease compared to this year’s career center spending plan.
Career center Superintendent Dana Peterson said the proposed budget preserves all current programming and staffing levels at the school’s headquarters off Charles Avenue and at its North Campus in Middlebury’ industrial park. The spending plan will be decided on March 6 by residents in the communities in the Addison Central, Addison Northwest and Mount Abraham unified school districts.
“The budget is slightly down this year, which is no small task, given fixed cost-drivers,” Peterson said, alluding to contracted personnel costs and state spending directives. “Our staff pulled together very well. We looked at everything from soup to nuts. We reviewed every line. I think it was significant we were actually able to save money over last year.”
The proposed $3,468,524 budget is the lowest in seven years. It is $127,932 less than the $3,596,456 spending plan voters approved for fiscal year 2016.
“Everyone scrutinized their (budget) lines to see where we could save and offset our increasing fixed costs,” Peterson said.
While the proposal represents a slight spending reduction, it does reflect a 6.47-percent increase in the tuition cost for enrolled students.
The PHCC’s current tuition rate is $20,162 per full-time-equivalent student. The state covers $8,236 of that amount, while a local assessment of $11,926 makes up the balance.
The total tuition cost per full-time-equivalent student is being pitched at $21,466 for 2018-2019. Each FTE student slot would carry a local assessment of $12,889, with the state picking up the remaining $8,567.
Peterson said the rise in tuition is being driven, in large part, by declines in both enrollment and revenue.
Vermont’s career centers calculate enrollment based on a six-semester average. Many Hannaford Career Center students also attend classes at their respective Addison County high schools. As a result, most enrollees’ participation at the career center is a fraction of an FTE.
Sending school districts are billed in proportion to the number of FTE students they have enrolled at the career center.
At PHCC, enrollment has been declining steadily since 2011, according to Peterson. Last year, the career center had a six-semester average enrollment of 134.89 FTE students. Officials are projecting that number to fall to 127.67 for the coming year.
“We’re trying to maintain a reasonable budget that keeps our costs as close to this year’s budget as possible, while increasing the number of students that we serve,” Peterson said.
Gaining more students will be a challenge, considering Vermont’s student population has been shrinking statewide for more than a decade. Peterson said the career center will use a three-pronged approach to bump its enrollment, including:
•  More aggressive promotion of its programs to middle schoolers, so they’re more apt to sign up when they reach high school.
•  Finding creative ways to boost programs that are currently under-subscribed.
•  Offering new, trending programs when possible. For example, PHCC will offer a computer science program next fall.
Peterson wants to develop a closer working relationship with the sending high schools.
“We need to work together as enrollment declines,” he said.
Career center officials are also seeking more students for PHCC’s adult education programs. Peterson believes there are some Addison County residents in the age 16-24 demographic who didn’t graduate from high school and are now looking to resume their education or get some workforce training.
PHCC could become a player in the Addison Central School District’s International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. The Middlebury-area district is transitioning to an IB program that, among other things, will offer a “career component,” according to Peterson. He wants the career center to assist with that career training.
PHCC currently offers 12 technical programs and six pre-technical programs. Offerings range from theater to auto mechanics. The center employs 14 different professional instructors, as well as a special educator, school counselor, literacy coach and a math coach.
More details about Hannaford Career Center programming can be found at hannafordcareercenter.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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