Voters approve school budgets

ADDISON COUNTY — Local school district budgets for the upcoming academic year all passed easily in Australian balloting on Tuesday, with percentage margins ranging from 57% support in the Otter Valley Unified Union School District to 76% backing in the Addison Central School District.
The margin favoring the Patricia Hannaford Career Center spending plan for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) was even higher. Voters in the three affiliated Addison County school districts backed the roughly $3.53 million PHCC plan by 5,169-910, or at an 85% rate. That budget plan will cut spending by almost 1%.
Ballots in all the districts were commingled.

In ACSD a $40.3 million spending plan that called for a 0.34% increase in spending earned support, 2,082-668, among voters in the seven district towns.
The ACSD board had agreed to soften the tax impact of the proposed budget by applying $550,000 of a fund balance carried over from fiscal year 2020.
ACSD officials had in January forecasted the budget would trigger a district-wide education tax increase of 12 cents per $100 in assessed property value, with tax impacts in individual towns varying due to their Common Levels of Appraisal (CLAs). 
State officials are now citing recent school financing trends that figure to substantially reduce Vermont education tax rates below original forecasts.
Factors include a healthier Education Fund, lower-than-expected school spending proposals statewide, and legislation expected to pass that will reflect those trends and lower property tax contributions to the Education Fund.
The latest forecasts for ACSD call for homestead tax rate increases in Middlebury (2 cents), Cornwall (3 cents), Bridport (4 cents) and Salisbury (7 cents), but decreases of 3 or 4 cents in the other three towns.

In the five towns of the Mount Abraham Unified School District, residents backed, 1,320-696 (or 65-35%) a $31,753,310 spending plan for FY22. It called for an increase of $354,128, or a little more than 1%, over the current budget.
By even wider margins, MAUSD voters also approved divvying up the district’s unaudited 2020 fund balance of $966,229 by putting:
•  $366,229 toward the FY22 budget to offset taxes
•  $300,000 into the Capital Reserve Fund
•  $300,000 into the Education Reserve Fund.
Mount Abe homestead tax rates are expected to be lower than projected in January. As well as the statewide spending factors, MAUSD got a boost in its student count, thus increasing revenue and decreasing pressure on the tax rate.
When MAUSD officials presented their spending plan in January, tax rates were expected to increase in four out of five towns, ranging from a 1.4-cent increase in Starksboro to a 6.3-cent increase in Bristol. Only Lincoln was projected to see a tax rate decrease.
After the new numbers, however, tax rates are projected to go down in three out of five towns, and the increases in the other two towns are lower than anticipated.
Now, MAUSD projections call for increases of 3 cents in Bristol and 0.6 cent in Monkton, and decreases of between 1 and 5.5 cents in the other three towns.

Addison Northwest School District residents backed a $21.6 million FY22 school spending plan, 1,052-392, or a 73-27% margin. That budget proposal comes in at about $238,400 less than current district spending, but according to district officials maintains existing programs and adds a preschool at Ferrisburgh Central School.
The budget marked the third time in the past four years the ANSWD board approved a spending plan with a decrease. In all, the proposed spending is about $450,000 lower than the FY2018 budget.
According to ANWSD officials, homestead school tax rates will be going down in the district’s five communities, with decreases ranging from around a penny in Waltham to about 19 cents in Panton. As well as the statewide factors, ANWSD also gained a handful of students.
ANWSD residents also backed by similarly wide margins a number of board proposals on how to handle a roughly $1.6 million ANWSD surplus from the FY20 fiscal year.
Those included using $266,000 to lower the FY22 district tax rate, taking $890,895 to create an Education Stabilization Fund, placing $475,000 into the existing ANWSD capital reserve fund, and using up to $380,000 to mitigate a mold infestation at Ferrisburgh Central School. 

OVUUSD residents passed a $20.97 million budget, 1,252-960. It called for a 3.25%, or $662,000, increase in spending, mostly due to salaries and benefits.
The Otter Valley district’s per-pupil spending remains almost $2,000 less than the figure state officials established as the average Equalized per Pupil Spending of $17,611. 
Otter Valley officials initially projected the district homestead tax rate to come in at $1.48 before individual towns’ CLA adjustments.
An updated estimate taking into account the latest statewide developments wasn’t available at press time, but officials were expecting good news.

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