November 1, 2014

School baseline budget increases

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Nov. 17, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff

Next year’s baseline budget for the Williston School District, which includes Allen Brook (top) and Williston Central (bottom) schools, totals nearly $16.82 million — 3.17 percent higher than this year. (Observer photos by Steven Frank)

In the closing minutes of the Williston School Board’s regular meeting on Nov. 9, Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason unveiled a double-sided piece of paper that will open the floodgates for the impending budget process.

The FY2013 baseline budget, distributed by Mason to each member of the Board, shows a 3.17-percent increase over this year’s budget. This school year, the Williston school district is budgeted to spend approximately $16.3 million. The baseline for next year is $516,111 more, totaling nearly $16.82 million.

The baseline budget highlights what the district would have to spend in order to provide the same level of services and staff as the current year. It provides a launching pad for the Board to begin crafting a budget proposal, a process that kicks off Thursday with the first in a series of budget meetings. The meeting, which is scheduled to include a review of the baseline budget, begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be held in the Williston Central School dining room.

Despite the increase, Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli is encouraged.

“If you look at the other CSSU schools, ours is a good number,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the number will end up here, but for a starting point it’s good.”

The majority of the increase is for instructional programs and support services, which Nardelli attributed to a rise in healthcare costs.

Transportation and utility costs are estimated to rise 6 percent and gasoline is budgeted for a 26-percent spike. Mason pointed out the challenge of developing those numbers.

“It’s a shot in the dark, this far ahead of when we’re actually going to go to the pumps and get the gas,” Mason said. “It’s much more pleasant for us all if our staff covers it and we end up with a little upside next year, rather than struggle and find out what we’re going to cut for the costs of fuel for our buses.”

Another challenge is a return to working with a baseline increase. Last year’s baseline was nearly $220,000 lower than FY2011.

“The work that the Board has to do between now and January will be more difficult this year than it was last year,” Mason said.

Mason pointed out that the district benefitted last year from finishing a 20-year bond payoff for WCS’s east wing and auditorium completed in 1991. That eliminated $358,000 from the budget.

“It’s too bad we can’t do that every year,” Nardelli said.

As for the budget’s impact on property taxes, Mason said it’s too early to project because the state hasn’t estimated its tax rate. Tax implications are slated to begin being addressed at the Board’s budget meeting on Dec. 15.

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