CVU board warned of possible rainy day
By Mal Boright
December 12th, 2013
A monetary shock wave shook the Champlain Valley Union High board at its budget meeting Monday night, sending school system administrators to their calculators and the proposed turf project into at least temporary limbo.
A two-year decline in student enrollment, plus hikes in the state’s homestead tax rate, could mean as much as a 10 percent increase in the tax rate the board might ask of district voters if these preliminary figures hold up.
“These were areas over which we have no control,” Board Chairman David Rath said Tuesday. “It is whatever the state does in the homestead rate (5 percent increase) plus a change in the pupil reimbursement rate.”
He also noted that a one-year “bump” in some state dollars is gone this year.
Rath said the enrollment numbers have decreased the past two years although it is not “a terribly significant decrease.”
Interim Principal Jeff Evans pointed out at Monday’s meeting, and Rath agreed, that projections show an increase in student numbers next year.
Rath said the board will be tackling the issues at its January meetings. He said if the numbers unveiled Monday hold up, no net increase in spending would still require a tax rate hike.
Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union operations officer, and Evans are to scrutinize the budget and bring recommendations for possible revisions to the board in January.
The apparently changing revenue picture gave board members pause in consideration of the synthetic turf project for the school’s athletic fields. A $1.5 million bond issue for two turf fields was narrowly defeated by district voters in November.
Last week, the board discussed the possibility of bringing a revised bond issue to voters in March. The bleak financial news put a different light on the turf matter.
“We cannot go for a bond issue in a year we go for a tax increase,” said board member Jeanne Jensen.
Member Jonathan Milne suggested a bond proposal for $500,000 and then adding $550,000 in donated funds plus $150,000 already designated for the project. It would cover the cost of one turf field instead of two.
“I would like to leave this on the table for a while longer,” he said. ‘It does not make sense to just refurbish the grass fields.”
The estimated cost of reworking the seven fields, a 10-year project, has been previously pegged at $1.5 million.
Amy DuBrul, co-chairwoman of the turf fund-raising committee, said she respects the board’s position in regard to a possible tax increase.
The board’s finance committee and fundraising committee officers will meet later this month.
“Everyone understands we have to do something for the athletic fields,” Rath said Tuesday.