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SVUUSD cuts budget for Aug. 11 revote

ORWELL — Orwell voters on Tuesday, Aug. 11, will cast ballots on a revised 2020-2021 K-12 spending plan of $26,402,586 for Slate Valley Unified Union District Schools (SVUUSD). The budget is $220,455 less than a budget proposal district residents have defeated twice during the past five months.
If approved by SVUUSD voters in Orwell, Castleton, Benson, Hubbardton, West Haven and Fair Haven, the budget will result in education spending of $16,393.68 per equalized pupil, an amount that’s 1.99% higher than spending for the year that just ended. The spending proposal to be fielded Aug. 11 represents a decrease of $91,052 when compared to the fiscal year 2020 budget, according to new information posted online at slatevalleyunified.org.
The proposed new 2020-2021 SVUUSD budget reflects, among other things, a net reduction of 3.9 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, including direct instruction (math/science) and support staff. The personnel cuts include a 0.6 FTE student support post in Orwell, for a savings on $27,460.
The district, according to Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell, has cut 15.15 FTE positions during the past three years.
As of June 30, SVUUSD had incurred $40,700 in costs related to COVID-19.
If endorsed on Aug. 11, the $26.4 million budget is expected to result in a 2-cent decrease in Orwell’s education property tax rate, according to information provided by the district.
As previously reported by the Independent, the upcoming budget vote has nothing to do with an ill-fated, $59.5 million SVUUSD bond proposal that would have paid for extensive renovations to Fair Haven Union High School, a new “Slate Valley Middle School,” an 8,200-square-foot addition to the Orwell school, and a new, $842,066 elevator at Fair Haven Grade School. That building project was soundly defeated earlier this year, and there are no plans at this point to revive it.
Slate Valley officials have published a “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage that lists responses to an array of questions about the budget and the options open to the board to cut the spending plan. That FAQ can be found at tinyurl.com/y6dlg9xf.
School districts must continue to vote until a budget is passed, the state can’t impose a budget.
If a budget hasn’t been adopted by the start of the school year, the school must still open. Categorical grants from the state will still be paid to SVUUSD, as well as a portion of the payments due the district from the education fund. If additional funding is needed, SVUUSD can borrow up to 87% of its most recently approved budget.
Slate Valley right now has a $2.5 million line of credit with People’s United Bank that bears an interest rate of 1.75%. The district has not had to draw on that money yet, but typically does so in late August around the time that the first payroll for school year employees is processed, according to district officials.
The district will hold an online informational meeting about the budget at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3.
Connect to the meeting virtually by going to meet.google.com/xyb-itrv-dguor by calling (US) +1 234-307-0704 PIN: 698 588 330#.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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