OV board backs 2.2% increase in spending
BRANDON — The Otter Valley Unified Union school district board last week approved a proposed $20,377,427 fiscal year 2021 budget that would increase spending over the current year by 2.22%.
Board members call it a modest increase as the district handles the ever-shifting demographics that influence staffing at each school, student population numbers, and the individual needs of those students.
The state doles out education funding money based on the number of students a school educates, and OVUU is seeing positive trends in enrollment that are keeping costs in check.
Education spending per the state’s equalized pupil formula has per pupil spending increasing from $14,826 to $15,399, a 3.86% increase.
The OVUU school district is comprised of the Lothrop Elementary School (K-5) in Pittsford, the Neshobe School in Brandon, Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, and the Otter Creek Academy, which is comprised of elementary schools in Leicester, Sudbury and Whiting.
The good news is that student enrollment continues to rise at Neshobe School, which serves pre-K through sixth grade. In 2019-20 school year, there are 320 students, and OVUU projects 331 students at Neshobe during the 2020-21 school year. Substantial increases in first grade, third grade and fifth grade enrollment are anticipated.
OVUHS is also expected to see an increase in enrollment in almost every grade, with an anticipated jump from 553 students to 590 in grades 7-12.
Student enrollment at Lothrop is anticipated to remain relatively steady, with perhaps a decline of two students.
Still, many Vermont schools have been forced to cut programming and staffing in order to save money as student numbers continue to decline. Decreasing enrollment is the reason behind the Act 46 school consolidation legislation passed in 2016. OVUU was the second district in the state to sign and implement consolidation of its six schools. The goal was to combine services and student numbers in a more cost-efficient way, especially in districts with small schools.
Now that the dust has settled in moving grades and schools and determining staffing needs within the consolidation, OVUU can now focus more on staffing for the future.
“The past few years has focused on adjusting staffing to meet the needs of the merged district,” the district wrote in its December budget presentation. “That work is now done and we can turn our attention to the staffing needed to support students to achieve academically.”
In the OVUU district, three small schools were re-organized to serve students from Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury. Whiting Elementary School became a pre-k nursery school, Leicester School serves students in kindergarten-4th grade, and Sudbury Country School serves 5th- and 6th-graders. Together, these schools are called Otter Creek Academy. Enrollment is expected to fall by up to 25 students among the three schools.
The following is a rundown of the OVUU budget staffing increases based on current and projected need:
• 1.00 FTE (full-time equivalent) Student behavioral support professional for Neshobe for emotional support and equity.
• 1.25 teachers at Otter Valley – 1.0 Multi-Tiered Systems of Support position, that includes universal screening of all students, multiple tiers of instruction and support services, and an integrated data collection and assessment system to inform decisions at each tier of instruction; and 0.25 a vocational education/shop/tech educator.
• 0.45 Pre-K instructor added to Otter Creek Academy based on enrollments (partly funded with out-of-district students in the Whiting preschool)
• 0.30 FTE physical education/health to support health education at Neshobe.
• 1.0 FTE elementary Spanish for Neshobe/Lothrop and Otter Creek Academy to allow for Spanish/World Languages twice a week in grades 4-6.
• Cut 1.0 FTE teacher at Otter Creek Academy due to reduction in enrollment numbers.
So, what’s the bottom line? The unified tax rate under the propped budget would be $1.415 per $100 of assessed property value, an increase of $0.045, or 3.28%. If approved by voters on Town Meeting Day, the Common Level of Appraisal for each town would be factored into the unified tax rate to get an updated local tax rate. The Common Level of Appraisal, or CLA, is the measure of disparity between the market rate of all assessed property in town and the current assessed value of the property. The closer the market value and the town’s assessed value are, the closer a town’s CLA is to 100%.
Once a town’s CLA falls to 85% or lower, the state mandates that a reappraisal must be performed to assess and update all property at market value.
Based on the current Common Level of Appraisals, or CLAs, for the six towns in the OVUU school district, the tax rates for each town would be as follows:
CLA 98.77% (previous CLA 102.73)
Current rate $1.334
Proposed rate $1.433
Percent change 7.39%
CLA 88.85% (Previous CLA 89.73)
Current Rate $1.527
Proposed rate $1.592
Percent change 4.29%
CLA 99.68% (Previous CLA 106.41)
Current rate $1.288
Proposed Rate $1.419
Percent Change 10.21%
CLA 97.26% (Previous CLA 97)
Current Rate $1.412
Proposed Rate $1.455
Percent Change 3.03%
CLA 111.60% (Previous CLA 111.03)
Current Rate $1.234
Proposed Rate $1.268
Percent Change 3.48%
CLA 103.90% (Previous CLA 104.10)
Current Rate $1.316
Proposed Rate $1.362
Percent Change 3.48%
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