BRATTLEBORO—The Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) will hold a public hearing about the proposed fiscal year 2024 school operating/capital budgets on Tuesday, March 21 in the Brattleboro Union High School gymnasium.
A public informational hearing was to have taken place on March 14 but was cancelled due to the nor’easter. Meetings are rescheduled to Monday, March 20 at 6 p.m.
Business Manager Frank Rucker says he believes the board “supports this budget as a fiscally responsible plan to respond to our school’s student and community needs.”
The proposed $62,704,054 general operating budget represents a $1,620,583, or 2.7%, increase to this year’s operating budget.
However, the budget as approved by the WSESD board will use $950,000 in-hand from prior years — the “fund balance” — to offset the total. State law requires school districts to retain 5% of the budget in this educational fund. Rucker said using $950,000 will leave $3,319,481 in the fund balance.
While the budget as proposed includes an estimated tax rate change that is reduced by 6.5% and the anticipated income cap percent for income sensitivity adjustment is down 4.3%, individual tax rates by town are dependent on the common level of appraisal adjustment for each town.
Rucker said all indications show there will be “almost no change” to the tax rate compared to this year’s rate in Brattleboro, while Dummerston homeowners will see “a modest change.”
Putney residents will see a tax rate that could be “up quite a bit” due to the current real estate market there “having indicated sales are much higher than the tax-assessed values,” he said, adding that the rate in Guilford is “as yet unknown” as the town undertakes a property reappraisal.
Major drivers contributing to the budget increase include $1,070,194 to add 10 new positions and salary increases, $746,664 in health insurance costs, and a $712,679 increase in special education costs — a combined total of $2,529,537.
On the other hand, reductions in the proposed budget compared to this year’s include $1,093,555 less in capital improvements and $109,749 less in bond interest debt as loans are being paid down.
According to the November preliminary census, the WSESD has 1,328 students in pre-K through elementary grades and 1,074 in secondary schools (Brattleboro Union High School and Brattleboro Area Middle School) for a total of 2,402 students district-wide. The district has 435 employees.
The WSESD capital plan in fiscal year ’24 calls for 38 projects that are generally aligned with HVAC system improvements, various building thermal improvements (for example, energy-efficient window replacements and insulation), roofing projects, and campus facility improvements. The total estimated cost of the those projects is $3.6 million.
The current year capital plan was $3.4 million and has been expended on similar types of improvements, including finishing the Academy School addition and renovation project.
Annual district reports and proposed budgets are available at Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, and Putney town offices; all WSESD school sites; the WSESU central office; and at wsesu.org.