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School Board OKs budget decrease

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

For the second year in a row, the Williston School Board approved a budget decrease for the school district. Pending voter approval on March 1, Town Meeting Day, next school year’s budget will drop 1.06 percent.

The $16.3 million budget proposal includes the addition of a new science lab at Williston Central School and a substantial increase in new computer purchases. Planned retirements for some teachers and savings in the district’s operating expenses played roles in keeping costs down for next year, Principal Walter Nardelli has explained in meetings throughout the budget planning process.

School Board members attending the Jan. 20 meeting unanimously approved the budget. Chairwoman Holly Rouelle and board member Kevin Mara were not present.

In addition to approving or rejecting the 2011-2012 school budget on Town Meeting Day, residents will vote on a $369,000 bond for the replacement of two heating oil boilers and the installation of energy-saving lighting at Williston Central School. Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s chief operations officer, said the cost of the improvements may be lower than the amount suggested in the bond. If the cost is less than $369,000, the district would only take out a bond for the smaller amount. In addition, Mason said the district should recoup some money in energy efficiency rebates.

The ballot will also include a question for voters on whether to authorize the purchase of a new school bus for $105,000.

Despite the budget reduction, Williston’s property tax rate is expected to increase by 1 percent. That’s because the Vermont Legislature expects to raise the state’s homestead base rate by 1 cent. Homestead base rates and school budgets determine individual town property taxes.

The Champlain Valley Union High School budget figures into Williston’s tax increase as well, Mason said. CVU’s budget for next year is also dropping by a little more than 1 percent, but not enough to minimize projected tax increases.

Mason said the Legislature may approve a homestead base rate hike from 86 cents to 87 cents to help close a statewide budget gap. While this decision is not set in stone, Mason said early indicators from the legislative session seem to point toward a bump in taxes.

“One could attribute the tax increase to what the state did and not what you did,” Mason told the board.

The School Board plans to hold an informational public budget meeting next month, although no date was agreed upon at the meeting.

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