BRATTLEBORO—On a chilly Valentine’s Day night, 101 voters gathered to discuss the Brattleboro Union High School District #6 budget.
The $25,359,197 fiscal year 2018 budget passed on a voice vote with less than 1 percent of registered voters in attendance.
The budget represents spending of $17,349 per equalized student. This amount is a zero percent increase per equalized pupil compared with the previous year.
Overall, the equalized homestead school property tax rate decreased slightly, by $0.067, for fiscal year 2018 compared with the current year.
“In summary, this budget allows us to meet the educational expectations of the state and our communities at a cost the taxpayers can support and value,” Board Vice-Chair Robert “Woody” Woodworth said.
Of the 15,850 registered voters in the district, 101 — or 0.64 percent — voted on the budget.
The individualized tax rates for member towns are based in part on how many students from the town attends the #6 district. Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, and Putney are expected to see a tax decrease. Vernon’s tax rate will likely increase.
One major difference in this year’s budget is a reduction of $2,623,803. The bulk of this reduction comes from streamlined special-education services. According to the district’s annual report, delivering special education has shifted from the level of individual schools to the Supervisory Union level.
Instead of each school in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union hiring para-educators, for example, these professionals are now hired by the Supervisory Union.
In his comments about the budget, Woodworth told the audience that this is the 10th year the School Board has instructed the administration to keep the budget as close to level-funded as possible. The administration has met this charge by being creative with staffing and “keeping a tight rein” on discretionary spending, he said.
However, the budget has grown in one area, he said. The School Board continues to put money aside for anticipated capital improvements to avoid falling into the sticky cycle of deferred maintenance.
Woodworth said the School Board continues to look beyond the projected five-year capital plan and all the way to the end of the high school and middle school buildings’ useful life. This year, the capital improvement and maintenance line had $350,000 in it. That amount covers all of this fiscal year’s planned improvements and maintenance.
Audience members questioned a few spending items, but in the end, the budget passed as presented.
At the end of the evening’s meeting, the School Board honored Superintendent Ron Stahley. Stahley will retire at the end of this school year after 15 years.
Board Chair Ricky Davidson said the Supervisory Union has experienced changes during past decades, yet Stahley “has always kept his eye on the students and what is in the best interest of the students.”
Stahley responded by saying, “I am so blessed to be working with and continue to work” with an amazing and collaborative staff and team. “We have incredible students,” he added.
He also congratulated incoming superintendent Lyle Holiday saying, “She is an amazing person and she will do a great job.”