Nov. 24, 2010By Tim Simard Observer Staff
The Williston School Board continued its budget season on a positive note. The board learned that next year’s 2011-2012 baseline budget is actually 1.35 percent less than this year’s budget. The news comes during a year where the state has urged boards to significantly reduce school spending costs.
The baseline decrease elicited positive responses from the School Board and those in attendance at its Thursday meeting.
“This is perfect timing,” board member Darlene Worth said.
If the district opened its doors next school year with the same level of services and staff as this year, its budget would be nearly $222,000 lower than it is now, totaling roughly $16.25 million. This school year, the district is budgeted to spend $16.32 million. Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s chief operations officer, provided the numbers to the board.
Mason said there were two reasons for the budget reduction, one being that the school district is expecting an approximately $260,000 decrease in special education spending.
“That number is dependent on the children and the needs of these children and it varies year to year,” Mason said.
The district also finished a 20-year bond payoff for Williston Central School’s east wing and auditorium completed in 1991. The school will no longer need to pay $358,000 per year for the bond.
Despite the decreases, Williston saw a $118,000 increase in transportation costs. Since CSSU rearranged how its districts pay for transportation costs, Williston is picking up a larger share of the charges since it requires more bus runs than other towns.
“Basically, you are a larger owner in the (CSSU) transportation pool,” Mason told the board.
While board members were pleased at the initial budget numbers, some expressed concern over the budget cuts proposed by the Vermont Department of Education. The department is strongly encouraging school districts to cut net spending by 2 percent for next year under a legislative program called Challenges for Change. The state hopes to cut $23.5 million in education spending across Vermont.
Mason said he was unsure how much money, if any, Williston would need to cut from next year’s baseline budget to meet the challenge. He said he needed to estimate what next year’s revenues might add up to since net spending is what the district would need to cut.
At a previous budget forum, Mason said the board should aim for a reduction figure of $265,780. Williston has to inform the Department of Education by Dec. 15 if it plans to meet the Challenges for Change.
Board members are also considering what possible budget additions they might need to make for next year, including improvements to the district’s science curriculum as well as needed upgrades in building maintenance.
The board is scheduled to hold its next budget meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Williston Central School.