Education News

ANWSD residents defeat board’s $28.3M budget

VERGENNES — In commingled balloting in the five Addison Northwest School District communities, the ANWSD board’s Fiscal Year 2024-2025 (FY25) budget proposal of $28,232,078 was defeated on Tuesday, 1,282-1,012, or about 56-44%.

School district officials said the budget would have preserved all existing programs as well as retained many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. Those positions deal with both remedial education and behavioral issues, and school officials have said the work done has been productive. 

That proposed spending would have meant an increase of about 11.5% over the current voter-approved spending level. But because of changes in state financing numbers and laws the budget would have only created an estimated increase of 3.25% in the district-wide homestead rate of about 5 cents, to $1.5910.

However, in four of the five ANWSD communities, low Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) — also a statewide issue — were expected to increase homestead tax rates by between 29 and 44 cents. Those who pay by income — about two-thirds of property taxpayers statewide and locally — would see some relief from those increases. 

Panton is nearing completion of a town-wide reappraisal and wasn’t expected to see the same dramatic changes in its school tax rate, although higher taxes were still expected.

School officials said they’d quickly return to the drawing board. 

Board Chair John Stroup said work on a new budget will begin on Monday, and the board hopes state lawmakers will look at how many budgets around the state were defeated.

“We hope to learn more from Montpelier that could result in more tax relief,” Stroup said. 

He added the board will look to incorporate the needs of all stakeholders in moving forward.

“Like many other districts in the state, we’re going to have to figure out a budget that will work for the community and the students and our staff,” he said. “We’ll find a school budget, but people are going to have to get engaged, and we’re going to have to do some work to figure out what the next step is.”

Voters in Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Waltham and Vergennes narrowly supported placing $1,172,107.61 from a Fiscal Year 2023 surplus into the district’s Capital Improvement Fund to address upcoming district infrastructure needs. That measure passed by four votes, 1,142-1,138.

“This outcome will allow us to continue to make progress on maintaining our facilities,” wrote Superintendent Sheila Soule in an email to the community.  

Soule also thanked voters.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to cast their vote and contribute to these crucial decisions. Your participation is integral to the democratic process and the continued progress of our community,” she wrote. 

She echoed Stroup in saying work will begin quickly on a new budget.

“Please be assured that our board is committed to promptly addressing this setback. We will work to redraft the budget and will schedule another vote to ensure the educational needs of our community are addressed,” she wrote. 

Stroup said he’s confident the board will come up with an acceptable spending plan. 

“We have work to do, but we can figure this out,” Stroup said. “We will figure this out.”

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