ACSD expenditures rise by $3.74%, with level services
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury-area voters on March 3 will be asked to approve $39,507,837 in public education spending for the 2020-2021 school year, a budget that reflects a 3.74-percent increase that would essentially allow the Addison Central School District to maintain current programming for children in pre-K through grade 12.
If approved by voters in the ACSD-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge, the budget would result in education spending of $18,885.85 per equalized pupil, which would represent a 7.76% increase. The ACSD includes elementary schools in the seven member towns, as well as Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
District officials cited several reasons for the budget increase:
• Declining enrollment, both locally and statewide. The ACSD is projecting that the ongoing drop in student numbers will continue through the 2025-2026 academic year. The district has lost 100 students in grades K-12 during the past two years. Because the state funds districts on a per-pupil basis, districts with declining enrollment see a loss of revenue, and per-pupil costs rise because schools have some fixed costs regardless of student numbers.
“The decline in equalized pupils magnifies the budget increases, and results in larger tax increases than have been seen in previous years,” ACSD board Chairman Peter Conlon states in his message in the district’s 2020 budget book.
• Wages and benefits. Those expenses account for more than 75% of the total ACSD budget. Most of these costs are contractual, fixed, and can’t be adjusted, official explained. Health insurance premiums are set to increase by around 13% next school year. Beginning in January 2021, new health insurance benefit structures will be implemented as a result of statewide negotiations. Also, the ACSD will begin offering multiple tiers of health coverage to support staff, a new benefit structure that will be in place for half of fiscal year 2021 and is expected to add around $125,000 to the overall budget.
The ACSD has proven adept at eliminating positions through attrition, and filling some open jobs with educators who might otherwise have to be laid off.
“As the district continues to adjust to enrollment declines and acting as a unified district, one clear benefit is the ability to offer teachers who may be caught in a reduction in staff at one school, a vacant position at another,” Conlon said. “This year, that provided all affected teachers the opportunity to remain part of ACSD.”
• Revenue decreases. Tuition revenues are declining, and the district is poised to lose three tuitioned students during the coming year. Also, special education-related revenue is expected to decline substantially, according to district officials.
The budget also reflects a 5% bump in student transportation costs, from the current $872,306, to $916,509.
The proposed fiscal year 2021 spending plan would create a new, district-wide education property tax rate of $1.69 per $100 in property value. That would be a 10-cent increase compared to this year. But the actual education property tax rate will vary among the seven towns based on their Common Level of Appraisal (CLA).
Towns’ CLAs are used to equalize education taxes statewide by reflecting local variations that occur based on reappraisal schedules and other factors, according to the Vermont Assessor website. CLAs are a method of ensuring that each town is paying its fair share of education property tax to the state’s Education Fund.
The district’s estimated tax rate is divided by each town’s CLA, as set by the Vermont Department of Taxes, to determine each town’s estimated education property tax rate.
Here are the projected increases on town-by-town education property tax rates if the proposed ACSD budget passes:
• Bridport: $1.76, up from the current $1.60.
• Cornwall: $1.74, up from the current $1.58.
• Middlebury: $1.64, up from the current $1.54.
• Ripton: $1.89, up from the current $1.76.
• Salisbury: $1.81, up from the current $1.63.
• Shoreham: $1.73, up from the current $1.59.
• Weybridge: $1.76, up from the current $1.61.
A complete copy of the ACSD annual report and FY’21 budget book can be viewed at tinyurl.com/s75e5c7.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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