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ACSD budget draft reflects $31.5M in spending for Middlebury-area schools

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District board will soon get to work cobbling a fiscal year 2020 spending plan for Middlebury-area schools. Addison Central administrators recently presented the panel with a first draft calling for $31,534,046 in spending, which represents a 2.24-percent increase compared to this year’s budget.
“The first draft is largely a rollover of the current environment, adjusting for any non-discretionary knowns, such as health care premiums and the (new) transportation contract,” reads a recent budget memo to the board from ACSD Business Manager Brittany Gilman.
The budget will cover pre-K-through-grade-12 expenses for students in the ACSD-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. Fiscal year 2020 will span July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, the ACSD and other Vermont school districts were still waiting for key state aid information that will have a direct bearing on the taxpayers’ share of public education in their respective communities. But Addison Central officials already have a read on the major budget drivers, which include:
•  A 3-percent increase in the amount of money needed for student instruction, largely related to contracted increases in teacher salaries and health benefits, according to ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows. Health insurance costs are predicted to rise by 11 percent for the 2019-2020 academic year, according to officials, though some of that expense will be offset due to some early retirements.
•  The hiring of an additional 1.5 full-time equivalent paraeducators for Middlebury Union Middle School, related to students’ individual learning plans.
•  An increase in physical therapy and occupational therapy services ($160,000) based on incoming students’ needs.
•  The hiring of an additional nurse at Middlebury Union High School, based on projected students’ needs.
Burrows noted the schools are still carrying two school psychologist vacancies that the district has been unable to fill due to a lack of applicants. Burrows said there’s a dearth of candidates for school psychologist vacancies statewide.
There’s also some good news in the budget for taxpayers.
Additional revenues, attrition and other factors will offset some of the impact of the aforementioned budget drivers.
For example, ACSD schools are expected to add 10 new students tuitioned from nearby districts, including Rochester, Hancock and Granville. That extra tuition will add around $180,000 in revenues.
It should also be noted that the district will avert what had been forecast as a substantial increase in student transportation costs next year, due to the elimination of a duplicative school bus route.
District taxpayers will also benefit from a 6-cent reduction in education property taxes, one of the financial incentives the ACSD received in return for merging its school governance in 2016.
Fiscal year 2020 marks the end of a the state’s so-called health care “claw-back” that resulted in two years’ worth of reduced state contributions for teachers’ new health care plans. That claw-back, or recapture, was part of a health insurance deal negotiated by Gov. Scott and lawmakers during the spring of 2017. This means $166,000 in additional health insurance-related revenue for the ACSD for fiscal year 2020, according to Gilman.
Burrows is anticipating a slight decline in student enrollment in ACSD schools next year, continuing what has been a longstanding trend in Vermont.
The Independent will provide more details on the ACSD’s fiscal year 2020 spending plan when the board agrees on a final number next month. District voters will be asked to approve the budget on Town Meeting Day next March.
“When you look at the budget we’ve crafted for FY20, we’ve been able to maintain services, save in some areas and keep the overall increase fairly modest,” Burrows said. “We’re happy where we stand how and are excited to get (state aid) numbers.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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