Schools boards finalize budget proposals

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Williston School District and Champlain Valley Union High School boards last week approved final budget proposals for the 2014-2015 school year.

The Williston School Board on Jan. 16 approved a budget proposal of $17.25 million—approximately the same as last year. The board settled on the figure after reviewing nearly $300,000 in cuts from its adjusted baseline budget earlier this month.

The Champlain Valley Union High School Board also approved its final budget proposal last week. The board officially approved a 2014-2015 proposal of $22.4 million, a 1.65 increase over the current budget. The board was initially presented with a 3.56 percent increase in its baseline budget.

Despite the flat Williston budget and trimmed increase in the CVU budget, the property tax rate is still set to increase by approximately 6.8 percent, according to the latest estimate provided by Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union chief operations officer.

The total estimated homestead education tax rate, which includes the Williston School District spending and Williston’s portion of the CVU budget, would be $1.56 per $100 of value—up approximately 10 cents from last year’s rate. Not all taxpayers pay the same rate, however. Homeowners who earn less then $92,000 are eligible for reductions to their property tax bills through the state’s income sensitivity program. Approximately 53 percent of Williston’s parcels receive tax credits, according to Town Clerk Deb Beckett.

Several factors go into the complicated formula that determines each town’s education tax rate, including the base rate set by the legislature, the town’s common level of appraisal and the school’s spending.

The estimated increase is largely due to a recommended 7-cent increase in the state’s base homestead tax rate. The legislature will set the final rate in the summer, but Tax Commission Mary Peterson has recommended that it raise the rate to $1.01.