CVU budget approval expected today

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The Champlain Valley Union High School Board of Directors is expected to approve on Jan. 18 a $19.7 million proposed budget for 2007-2008.

Members of the board postponed their meeting Monday night due to poor weather; the meeting was rescheduled for Jan. 18.

The $19.7 million proposed budget, which will go before voters on Town Meeting Day March 6, is a nearly 5 percent increase over the current budget. School salaries and benefits comprise nearly $13 million; the next biggest chunk of the budget ($1.2 million) accounts for a share of salaries and expenses to run the Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

Taxpayers in each town served by CVU collectively pay a percentage of the high school’s budget based on enrollment. Williston is projected to have nearly 35 percent of next year’s CVU enrollment, representing about $5.7 million of the proposed budget. Other towns served by CVU include Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, and St. George.

CVU Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen said she expects most of the 11-member board will support the proposed budget. The bulk of the increase is from projected salary and benefit increases for existing staff. Jensen said she expects one or two people will object to the final proposed budget because of three staff additions.

The part-time teaching positions – one each in science, business, and family and consumer sciences – are the additions over which there has been board disagreement, Jensen said. The first two are 50-percent-time positions; the latter a 40-percent time position; they total $98,000 for next year’s budget.

“We like the idea but we’re uncomfortable adding staff with a flat student population,” Jensen said the board told school administrators. The board told administrators they could support adding the positions if other costs were reduced.

Last month CVU Principal Sean McMannon said adding the positions would help reduce class sizes in tenth grade science and meet student demand in more areas. The addition of the part-time business teacher would allow ninth graders to take business electives and it would create another upper level business course.

“Students who are really interested in business courses, they run through our business curriculum pretty quickly,” McMannon said.

The part-time family and consumer science position would give ninth graders another elective course option and could help meet what McMannon called “high demand” in grades 10-12 food courses.

McMannon said new book orders, supplies, and technology equipment costs were reduced to accommodate the new positions, as was the fuel budget. Those reductions equal about $40,000, he said.

Other, less contentious, additions to the budget included three special education positions, part of the costs to be born by the State of Vermont. A proposed technology integration teacher/trainer position was not added. A new reading development program specialist was added; that person will work with students struggling with reading who are not eligible for special education services.

“It comes back to the question of (the federal) ‘no child left behind’ (program) and the expectation that every child is going to meet standards,” Jensen said, explaining why the board supported the addition. “We don’t feel it’s acceptable to have kids graduate who can’t read at grade level.”

Jensen acknowledged the board had expressed concern about the fact that CVU enrollment is projected to peak next year. In 2010-2011 school year, the high school is likely to have 1,254 students, about 100 fewer than current enrollment.

“We can support (staff increases) this year, but clearly we need to think long-term,” Jensen said.

McMannon said 14 CVU staff members have 25 or more years of experience and nine staff members have more than 30 years experience. Staff increases now likely will be offset by staff retirements or reduced schedules when enrollment begins to decline, he said.

Also on the March 6 ballot, voters likely will be asked to approve CVU to spend about $145,000 to replace a roof and a heating system in an area known as the “annex.” That money would come from an anticipated fund balance. In a separate ballot article, voters also will be asked to approve the purchase of two new buses; the first payment installment is included in the total CVU budget