October 22, 2014

Initial school budgets pared down

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School boards finalized their respective budgets for fiscal year 2013-2014 in the past week, both shaved down from earlier versions.

Like schools across the state this year, both boards have struggled with increases to their baseline budgets, largely due to increases in health care costs and 3 percent scheduled salary increases.

The Williston School Board on Jan. 24 approved a budget of $17,468,262, a 5.09 percent increase over last year’s budget.

“It’s tough to put an increase out there, but when you look at the history, (the budget has) increased less than 2 percent over five years,” Board Chairwoman Holly Rouelle said on Tuesday. “We feel good about adding the science (consultant) and also the 1-to-1 iPad initiative.”

On Jan. 28, the CVU Board was buoyed by a quarterly financial management report after its last meeting in January that was “much better than expected,” CVU Board Chairman David Rath told the Observer.

“In a budget season where there has been nothing but bad news, it was nice to get one piece of good news,” he said.

The report allowed the board to come down to a final budget of $22,038,941—a number that will result in a single vote on the March 5 ballot and a 2.89 percent increase from the 2012-2013 budget. If the budget had exceeded the current fiscal year’s spending, adjusted for inflation, plus one percent, it would have resulted in a two-part vote. The board reduced the final budget from the $22,075,261 to $22,104,261 range discussed at its last meeting on Jan. 10.

The board opted to significantly reduce as-yet-unidentified budget cuts, known as “go-gets,” and hold off on adding the half-time math coach, half-time power reading position and substitutes it had previously discussed.

“This was a very difficult budget process for this board and we all felt good to have worked out a way to do a one-vote budget that we think limits risk and is reasonable for our communities,” Rath said.

Voters in Williston, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Charlotte must ultimately approve the budgets on Town Meeting Day on Tuesday, March 5.

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