June 20, 2018

Guest Column: Ballot breakdown

School board shares thinking behind Town Meeting proposals

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is part of a series of monthly articles submitted by the Champlain Valley School District Board of Directors.

At this time of year, the days are a little bit longer and Vermonters all over the state turn their thoughts to … Town Meeting Day. Over the last three months, the Champlain Valley School Board, along with district administrators and local volunteer “Budget Buddies,” have put together what we believe is a fiscally conservative yet strategic and forward-thinking budget. On March 6, the voters of our district will be asked to approve our budget as part of four separate articles to address essential functions.

This fall, the board adopted a strategic financial model that allows us to continue to deliver high-quality educational programs while keeping costs in line with inflation indices. We started by giving our administration the goal of developing a budget with increases of no more than 2.3 percent from the current year, which they did. In addition, we set objectives to accelerate savings made possible through district consolidation.

Other objectives included reducing our fund balance (cash reserves) in a responsible manner and developing a long-term facilities management plan.

Throughout the budget development process, we have worked with administration and sought community input to develop a coordinated approach to ensuring equity of resources across schools, providing for innovative learning and supporting academic success for all students.

Here is an explanation of the district’s four questions (articles 8-11) on the March 6 ballot. Articles 1-7 will be determined by voice vote in our annual meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 at Champlain Valley Union High School room 140/142.

Article 8 asks voters to approve a consolidated budget for operating all schools in the five towns of the 4,000-student Champlain Valley School District for the fiscal year starting July 1. The proposed budget for operations and maintenance of our six schools is $76,838,041, an increase of 2.3% from the prior year.

Budget increases are due in part to the increases in costs of goods and services, such as energy and salaries. Offsetting increases are reductions in the costs of health care premiums, supplies, legal and auditing charges. Other increases in the budget are due to debt service on construction projects. It is estimated that the proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $15,749 per equalized pupil, an increase of approximately 2.3 percent. Our cost per pupil is near the state average and meets Gov. Phil Scott’s recent challenge to limit increases in per pupil spending to less than 2.5 percent.

Article 9 asks voters to approve applying some of the district’s fund balance to offset taxes. Because consolidation allowed for pooling all revenue and expenses, the district is in a position to draw down cash reserves left over from prior years’ budgets. This article asks voters to authorize the school board to assign $750,000 as revenue for the 2018-2019 school year (reducing the tax amount needed to be raised in this year’s budget cycle) and assign the remaining $1,625,877 as revenue for future budgets.  

Article 10 relates to bus purchases. Voters are asked to authorize borrowing up to $485,000 for the purpose of purchasing six school buses. Currently, the district has a fleet of 59 buses. Our goal is to replace five to six vehicles each year, keeping the average age of a bus to eight years. Transportation for Charlotte Central School, which currently contracts with an external vendor, will be brought in-house next year, thereby leveraging our existing infrastructure and lowering overall transportation costs.

Article 11 relates to the use of existing construction bond funds. Due to excellent fiscal management of the 2016 building improvement project for Shelburne Community School, there are cash reserves remaining of $819,665. This article asks for authorization to use the funds to complete mechanical upgrades in Shelburne not covered by that bond and to make other mechanical, electrical and structural upgrades and repairs to Allen Brook School in Williston, Charlotte Central School and Hinesburg Community School. This will not increase tax rates as this is not new money, but is money that has already been borrowed and set aside for school construction.   

To provide further opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback, we are offering a series of budget information meetings across the district (see sidebar). Voters are welcome to attend any meeting, in any town, that is convenient. In addition, our website page cvsdvt.org/budget has many resources, including our annual report, our budget flyer, FAQs and presentation slides shared during budget development meetings.  

Hard copies of our annual report can be found at each school and town office, or can be mailed to you by calling 985-1914. Also, the board’s budget meetings were recorded and can be viewed at .RETN.com.

Email us at CVSDBoard@cvsdvt.org with any questions.

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