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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Preparing for the vote

Brattleboro Union High School Board holds final meeting before Feb. 11 budget vote

BRATTLEBORO—Two short rows of empty chairs faced the Brattleboro Union High School Board members and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union personnel as the board explained the budget for fiscal year 2015.

The $27.8 million fiscal year 2015 District #6 budget increased just 0.96 percent over last year.

Essentially, the budget is level serviced, explained Board Chair Bob “Woody” Woodworth.

“I think we have a sound budget,” he said.

The small increase came from “a good deal of combing through the budget,” said Woodworth.

Woodworth and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union administration provided a 20-minute budget overview to an empty conference room in the WRCC, Feb. 3.

Collectively, the District 6 budget funds the Brattleboro Union High School (BUHS), Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS), and the Windham Regional Career Center (WRCC).

According to the Annual Report 2014 summary, the total operating budget increase of $241,880 is due to the district’s negotiated contracts and associated benefits for fiscal year 2015.

Health insurance costs also increased 4.5 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Other increases include building maintenance, liability and property insurance, and worker’s compensation.

The board decided against offering early retirement incentives this fiscal year, according to the report. The district has offered early retirement to eligible staff for the past three years as a cost-saving measure.

WSESU Business Administrator James E. Kane told the board that District 6 will ask to apply $750,000 of its accumulated fund balance to defraying upcoming education taxes.

The district is not asking for new appropriations in fiscal year 2015. The district is requesting, however, to deposit $150,000 into its Capital Improvement Fund, established last year.

The Capital Improvement Fund helps pay for infrastructure repairs and improvements on the school buildings. The District 6 board has developed a capital maintenance plan, looking ahead five to eight years and setting money aside for these anticipated expenses.

Voters will also be asked to approve using $600,000 of the unreserved undesignated fund balance to defray expenses for fiscal year 2015.

Also from the unreserved fund, the District is requesting that voters approve moving $191,957 to its Education Reserve Fund.

The Education Reserve Fund “is critical for planning,” said Kane. The monies in the fund help even out dips in cash flow or cover unexpected expenses that often occur.

Kane told the board that the education property taxes are still estimates, pending final numbers from the state.

The district has had few new sources of revenue over the past three years, said Kane. The board finance committee reviewed line items to keep increases down.

The Act 60 education funding formula contains multiple variables that can change the tax impact, said Kane.

According to Kane’s early estimates, Brattleboro faces a tax of $1.76 per $100 of assessed value. Compared to last year, the estimated change is less than 5 cents per $100.

Dummerston’s estimate is $1.79, which represents an 8-cent increase over the previous fiscal year’s tax, he said.

Guilford education taxes are estimated at $1.92, a decrease of about 2.7 cents.

Putney is next, with an estimate of $1.77, is an increase of 4.4 cents.

Vernon’s estimated tax will remain at $1.17.

Voters must approve the fiscal year budget and meeting articles at the District 6 annual meeting on Feb. 11.

Residents of legal voting age of the district towns of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, and Vernon may vote at the District 6 annual meeting.

According to minutes from last year’s budget vote, only 129 of the 14,948 eligible voters voted on the fiscal year 2014 budget. That translates to about 0.8 percent of eligible voters approving the $27.5 million budget.

The District 6 annual meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the BUHS gymnasium.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #240 (Wednesday, February 5, 2014). This story appeared on page A1.

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