Education News

MAUSD voters back third budget revision

BRISTOL — Voters in the Mount Abraham Unified School District on Tuesday backed the district’s third budget proposal for fiscal year 2025, and they did so decisively. 

Residents in the MAUSD member towns of Bristol, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro approved the $35.4 million spending plan by a 1,243-743 margin. 

“We are grateful and appreciative to all community members who helped the board spread the word about the budget, who advocated, and who showed up to vote,” MAUSD Board Chair Erin Jipner said on Wednesday morning. “This vote would not have come to fruition without the tremendous hard work of our admin team who rose to the occasion and were able to meet each ask.

“Success of the vote was highly reliant on the MAUSD board’s dedication to this endeavor. This group is expeditiously learning, adapting, and aligning for the sake of progress,” Jipner continued. “Overall, we have much to be grateful for and the room now to look forward.” 

The $35,381,196 spending plan on the ballot was the third budget fielded to MAUSD voters this spring. Residents first defeated a $37 million spending plan by 228 votes on Town Meeting Day and then rejected a $35.9 million budget proposal by 57 votes on April 16.

The approved budget represents a 4.47% increase in total spending over the current year, up from a $33.8 million FY’24 spending plan. 

Ahead of drafting the most recent budget proposal, MAUSD board members heard from Superintendent Patrick Reen and other administrators on several topics related to district spending and operations, as well as organized community forums in the district’s member towns to gather feedback from residents. 

Community members consistently told the school board this spring that they value student-facing positions and wanted to see that reflected in the spending plan put before voters.

The approved budget reflects a total reduction of $1.9 million from the original proposal district voters rejected on March 5. The revised plan also retains a handful of vacant student-facing positions that were eyed as potential cuts, such as two special educator jobs and a Social and Emotional Learning intensive coach position. 

Those $1.9 million in spending reductions would be achieved in part by not filling several vacant positions, eliminating around $600,000 in funds for construction services, and anticipated savings from reduced out-of-district placement costs, interpreter costs, special education travel and physical therapy costs.

Savings would also come from using $305,000 from the district’s Education Reserve Fund, which has a balance of $1,024,563. 

The approved spending plan is expected to lower the district-wide homestead tax rate by around seven cents, or 4.74%, from $1.4991 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.4281.

However, due to how education taxes are assessed by the state in individual Vermont towns, residents in three of the four MAUSD member towns are still expected to see their education property taxes rise by around 4-7%. That’s because of the Common Level of Appraisal, a ratio the state uses to adjust locally assessed property values to reflect estimated fair market value. 

For the around two-thirds of homeowners who pay based on their income, district officials expect the approved budget to translate to an increase of around $225 in taxes, or 11.35%. That’s based on the Addison County 2021 median income of $77,978.

Reen on Wednesday said he’s grateful to the community for their strong support of the budget. 

“I am also grateful for the board who worked hard to listen to the community and deepen their understanding of the school district throughout this process,” he said. “Our small but mighty finance team worked diligently to help community members understand our complex Vermont school funding system and pivot as needed to rework the budget to support board decisions. In the end, this collective effort produced a budget our community could support.” 

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