Education News

ACSD to ask for 5.3% increase in spending

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District board on Monday unanimously agreed to present voters with a 2022-23 budget of $41,578,089 that reflects $34,594,034 in local education spending — a 5.3% increase compared to this year.

“This FY23 budget responds to an unprecedented educational environment in which the needs of our students and communities have shifted how our schools operate,” according to ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows. “With the increased social and emotional needs of our students, we have worked to adapt traditional educational approaches to meet each student where they are. Much of this work at the budgetary level has consisted of shifts and increases to staffing in places where our staff, students, and families require more support and structure, given the weight of the pandemic on our combined community resources.”

The budget would tentatively result in an education cost of $20,192 per equalized pupil — a 6.8% increase — though that number could soon drop to $19,971 based on new information expected from the Vermont Agency of Education. The agency has told ACSD administrators they have likely under-forecasted the district’s Average Daily Membership (student count) by 38 over the next two years, according to district Business Manager Logan Price. That would be good news for district taxpayers, as more students translates into more state aid. At this point, the ACSD is projecting the same number of students next year as it has this year — 1,661 in preK-12 from Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Major budget drivers, according to Price, include:

  • An anticipated 5% increase in health insurance premiums for district employees.
  • Enrollment that’s expected to decline through fiscal year 2026.
  • Contracted increases in teacher and staff salaries.
  • Anticipated declines in general fund revenue, tuition revenue, and special education reimbursements.

Price noted if voters pass the budget on March 1, it would result in a district-wide education property tax rate of $1.56 per $100 in property value, which would be an 8-cent decline from this year. But that rate doesn’t include Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) adjustments for each of the seven towns. The state calculates a CLA annually for each town to adjust the assessed value of properties to reflect fair market value as nearly as possible.

Preliminarily, ACSD officials are projecting education property tax rates ranging from a 9-cent decline in both Salisbury and Weybridge, to a 3-cent increase in Ripton (which is seeking to withdraw from the ACSD). Details pertaining to the budget can be found in the ACSD’s FY 2023 “Annual Report and budget book,” accessible at tinyurl.com/4j2j9cr4.

Officials cautioned there are a variety of unknowns that could still affect the local education property tax rates before bills are sent out this summer. Among them:

  • Federal grants that won’t be awarded until this spring. So budget figures right now are based on estimates.
  • The Legislature has the ability to adjust the property yield rate to recalibrate tax revenue throughout the legislative session. Yield reductions increase tax rates.
  • Special education costs and associated reimbursements are based on estimates of eligible expenses. As student needs change, expenditures also change, which results in more or less reimbursement.

In other action on Monday, the ACSD board:

  • Set 2022-23 tuition rates of $18,284 for elementary school students and $19,712 for secondary school students.
  • Approved a virtual public hearing on the proposed budget on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. Details on how to connect to the virtual hearing will be posted at acsdvt.org.
  • Unanimously endorsed the warning of an article, to be voted on March 1, that seeks voters’ permission to transfer $2,323,099 in FY’22 unassigned fund balance to the ACSD’s capital reserve fund. The ACSD board plans to spend most of that money on a major renovation of the Middlebury Union High School kitchen, which has remained largely untouched since the school was built in 1956.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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