Voters approve $27.7m budget for BUHS, BAMS, Career Center

Windham Southeast elementary school budgets now ready for annual town meetings

BRATTLEBORO — Voters approved the Brattleboro Union High School District #6 budget at the district's annual meeting Feb. 12.

District #6 includes Brattleboro Union High School (BUHS), Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS), and the Windham Regional Career Center (WRCC). District #6 is the official name for the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU), a regional district educating students from Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, and Vernon.

The $27,687,316 budget for fiscal year 2014 reflects a 2.37 percent increase over the precious year.

According to James Kane, WSESU's business administrator, the total budget includes $150,000 in a new Capital Improvement Reserve Fund for future improvement projects.

Voters also approved using $1 million of the district's unreserved funds, often referred to as surplus funds, to defray expenses for fiscal year 2014. On paper, that $1 million changes the budget increase to 0.91 percent, said Kane.

When District #6 started its budget process, said Kane, the estimated tax projection for the residential base tax started at 91 cents per $100 of assessed value, and the per-student allotment started at $8,897.

Kane added, however, that the Legislature likely will vote to raise the residential base tax to 94 cents and the per-student allotment to $9,151.

According to Kane, the base residential tax of 94 cents on a $200,000 home would total $67.52 in Brattleboro, and $65.10 in Dummerston. Guilford and Putney will see reductions in their residential tax rates of $20.82 and $165.28 respectively. Vernon's residential tax rate will increase by $13.40.

These towns will also vote on their own town school portion of their tax rates.

Some 100 people attended the meeting, Kane estimated. He described the vote as close.

On March 5, Guilford residents will vote whether to tuition the town's seventh- and eighth-graders to BAMS. If so, then the other town's tuition contributions will be adjusted down in proportion to the tuition received from Guilford, said Kane.

Guilford Central School teaches K-8. If the voters choose to send the two upper grades to Brattleboro, they will discontinue seventh and eighth grades at Guilford Central, said Kane.

It would be a big change for the town, he added.

Brattleboro resident and Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray proposed an amendment to offset taxes to be raised with tuition received from Guilford town school district if Guilford voters approve tuitioning out their seventh- and eighth-graders. That amendment passed.

Kane said that some of the cost increases were due to a “double-digit” rise in health insurance costs.

A decrease of $4,250 in spending came from paying down capital improvement debt, said Kane. The district has also engaged other cost-saving measures.

The supervisory union has offered early retirement options to teachers for the past three years and moved more special education services in-house rather than tuitioning students to more expensive specialized schools.

Health insurance and special education costs often are the unknown increases when preparing school budgets, said Kane.

Kane said he thought that the fiscal year 2014 budget process had worked well in maintaining the educational programs offered by BUHS, BAMS, and WRCC.

It's always an aim to balance educational needs with the impact of taxes, he said.

Dummerston, Guilford, Putney and Vernon vote on their individual town school budgets on March 5. Town Meeting Representatives will vote on the Brattleboro town school budget at Representative Town Meeting on March 23.

Kane said Dummerston voters will be asked to approve a likely fiscal year total budget of $3,198,445, reflecting a 1.72 percent increase. Dummerston's proposed budget increases funding for preschool, up $6,315, and early education programs, up $10,127.

Dummerston also faces two special articles: one for a lighting retrofitting project and one related to the building's roof.

Dummerston, Putney, and Vernon schools are participating in the lighting project, said Kane. The program, through Green Mountain Power and Vermont Energy Investment Corp. (VEIC), is called the EverGreen Revolving Loan Fund, which provides interest-free capital for energy efficiency projects in K-12 schools.

The investment between the three schools will total $150,000, said Kane. The investment is intended to pay for itself through energy cost savings.

Guilford school district's proposed budget stands at $2,902,630, for an increase of 3.62 percent. The district's highest increase, of $13,600, was for major building repairs.

Putney's proposed school budget for fiscal year 2014 increased 4.64 percent over the previous year, for $3,666,832.

The greatest line item increases came from special education, up 20.88 percent, and the WSESU assessment, up 26.83 percent, which the supervisory union charges all schools based on their size and number of students. Kane said Putney's assessment increased due to an increased demand for speech pathology services at the school.

Vernon town school district's proposed budget of $4,292,785 showed an increase for fiscal year 2014 of 4.84 percent. The highest line item increases were for special education programs.

The Brattleboro town school budget includes funding for Academy School, Green Street School, Oak Grove School, and Early Education Services.

The town school proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 totaled $15,382,900, up 3.49 percent.

The estimated education tax at $0.91 is $1.5956. Should the Legislature increase the base tax to $0.94, then the education tax rate will move to $1.5976, said Kane.

According to Kane, the Brattleboro school district saw increases in special education and Early Education Services of more than 5 percent.

The funding for preschool increased by $83,733 (36.48 percent). Kane said the town school district contracts with preschool providers. For fiscal year 2014, on advice from Department of Education, the school district raised the base amount it paid to the preschool providers.

Two proposed capital improvement projects added $76,484 to the overall budget, said Kane. The money, if approved, will fund repairs to floors at Academy School and a heating system at Oak Grove School.

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