Education News

ACSD, Career Center budgets are approved

MIDDLEBURY Voters in the Addison Central School District communities of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge went to the polls on Tuesday to approve a proposed FY’25 preK-12 spending plan of $50.6 million by a convincing 2,081-1,157 tally.

The ACSD spending plan was the only K-12 budget to win voter approval in Addison County on Town Meeting Day, as many residents in our area and throughout Vermont were concerned about big education property tax increases due to inflation, rising health care premiums, the sunset of federal COVID assistance for schools, and a variety of other factors.

The ACSD budget represents a 6.5% increase in total education spending, but — given the implications of a new state funding law and common level of appraisal adjustments — could drive homestead education property tax rate increases of between 13% and 27% in the ACSD’s seven member towns.

Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, chair of the House Education Committee, which has been looking at ways to soften the impact of school funding on taxpayers, gave the following reaction to school budget defeats following Town Meeting voting:

“Given the increased cost statewide for education and the resulting tax increases, the reaction of voters is not surprising. There is no magic solution here. Student needs are significant, the federal government continues to fail in providing health care coverage to all citizens, and the student and teacher demographics aren’t getting any better. Coming out of this won’t be easy because there is no pot of money in the wings. It’s going to mean tough choices and hard feelings to put our educational system on a sustainable path.”

CAREER CENTER

While other school budgets in the county and statewide faced stiff headwinds at the polls, area voters approved the proposed FY’25 Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) budget of $5,345,539 by a 4,867 to 3,195 margin.

The budget reflects a 10.7% increase compared to the current spending plan. Career center officials attributed the proposed increase, in part, to an expected 16% hike in employee health insurance premiums; growing salaries & benefits; a 9% bump in Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust premiums; and ongoing debt service on an $8.1 million bond that voters OK’d back in 2022 to finance significant renovations to the PHCC’s Charles Avenue and North Campus buildings in Middlebury.

Founded in 1971, the career center offers career and technical education (CTE) programming for both high school and adult students in Addison County. The majority of its high school student enrollees come from Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools.

Nicole MacTavish, PHCC superintendent, said she was pleased with Tuesday’s vote.

“The board and I are incredibly grateful to our community for supporting CTE in Addison County,” she told the Independent Wednesday morning. “This has been a difficult climate for voters across the state as they contemplate tax rates that have very real impacts on families. The strong support we have experienced is a testament to the value our community places on the learning that happens here.”

MacTavish said career center officials have worked very hard to demonstrate the dividends reaped by students through the cutting edge technical skills they can develop while at PHCC, leading to careers in a variety of fields — including nursing, construction, forestry, agriculture and automotive technology. 

“We have a hugely supportive alumni group, a community which values the trades, and a board that ensures we keep growing and expanding our programming toward future industry needs,” she said. 

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