CVU budget draft at $19.5 million

Increases considered in coming weeks

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School administrators introduced the 2007-2008 school year draft budget last week.

The initial working budget rings in at roughly $19.5 million, a 3.5 percent increase over this year’s budget. The bulk of the proposed increase is in teacher and staff salaries and benefits; those increases are only estimates since next year’s teachers’ contract is under negotiation.

The working budget is not likely to be the final total, however. From now until Jan. 15, when the board expects to adopt the budget, CVU School Board members will consider adding eight full- or part-time teaching or teaching assistant positions. Three operational areas – two new school buses; replacement of a roof built in 1994; and a heating system for what is known as the annex building – also will be discussed.

“The decision packets are really around ‘what can we do for the kids whose needs we aren’t meeting today?’” Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen said. “The deliberations are going to be around ‘you can always do more, but what’s affordable?’”

At the top of the list of considerations are two new full-time reading positions – one teacher, and one assistant teacher known as a paraeducator – for students struggling in reading but who do not qualify for special education services. Currently CVU employs one half-time reading instructor.

“We have strong test scores compared to the state averages, but we still have kids who can’t read at grade level,” Jensen said. The proposed new reading instructors, who would come at an estimated cost of $90,000 in salaries and benefits, would address those deficiencies, she said.

Also in the area of reading is a proposed special education reading instructor at an estimated cost of $68,000. CVU Principal Sean McMannon said the state would reimburse about half the cost for that proposed position, as well as a proposed paraeducator in the Lewis Creek language-based learning disabilities program.

Both of the positions could mean a cost savings for the school, McMannon said; alternatives include costly day school placements or outside tutoring services. Not adding those positions may mean more students failing language-based classes, according to the written budget request.

Other proposals include new part-time positions in science, business, and family and consumer sciences. A new half-time science position would reduce the number of students per 10th grade class; at 26 students each, 10th grade science has the biggest sections, McMannon said. The addition also would ensure a variety of science choices for 11th and 12th grade students.

Though officials predict a declining enrollment three or more years from now, McMannon said that shouldn’t preclude staff additions now.

“If we reach the declining enrollment numbers that are projected, there are going to have to be some reductions,” he said. “But we’re trying to meet the needs of students next year and the following year so they can be as prepared as possible.”

CVU High School serves students living in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, St. George and Williston. Taxpayers in each of those communities pay a portion of the budget based on the number of students their respective towns have enrolled there.