Jan. 14, 2010
By Tim Simard
Work on the Williston School budget is nearing completion, and administration officials told School Board members they’ll be able to keep a budget increase under 1 percent. But it appears that tax rates will climb due to state increases in local property tax assessments.
District Principal Walter Nardelli told board members the administration is finalizing an exact budget amount, which he said could amount to a 0.66 percent increase. He said that number is a rough estimate, but increases shouldn’t climb to 0.8 percent.
Nardelli said the 0.66 percent increase includes $107,000 in essential costs for the next school year, as well as $125,000 in budget additions.
When budget work began in the fall, the estimated budget increase was 1.05 percent, bringing the total to $16.49 million. Last year, Williston kept its increase at 0.3 percent over the 2008-2009 budget.
Nardelli said the administration was able to get next school year’s budget increase under 1 percent with help from improved cost projections from officials at Chittenden South Supervisory Union.
What must happen next school year is the relocation of classroom materials and staff for the upcoming configuration changes. First and second grade in Williston Central School will move to Allen Brook School over the summer, costing an estimated $32,000 in moving costs, Nardelli said. He also said the administration is working out which teachers will be on the new lower grade teams in both schools.
“It’s the move that affects the cost, not the staffing,” Nardelli said after the meeting.
Williston Central’s logic board, which controls all of the school’s heating, air ventilation and alarm systems, also needs to be replaced next school year. Nardelli hopes money will be left over in this year’s budget to cover the $15,000 cost.
The district will also need to purchase math books for new programs instituted in recent years for lower house students. The cost could range from $11,000 to $16,000. The number depends on which grade levels receive the new materials, Nardelli explained.
The district also needs a part-time instructor for students learning English as a second language, at a cost of nearly $44,000. Nardelli said half the English language learners in CSSU live in Williston, requiring the extra staff position.
The School Board will decide at its next meeting whether to add more services for next school year, such as technology materials, money for the mentoring program (see story on page 1) and a math specialist position. Nardelli said his 0.66 percent budget increase projection includes the possibility of adding those improvements, or others.
While the proposed budget increase remains small, property tax rates will likely rise. Bob Mason, CSSU’s chief operations officer, said the Vermont Tax Commissioner estimated the state property tax rate, which funds education, at a 2.5 percent increase over the current rate. Williston’s budget changes would add to that percentage.
Williston residents pay about two-thirds of their property tax bill to Williston Schools and the remaining third to Champlain Valley Union High School. According to Mason, taxes on a $200,000 home would increase by nearly $200 for Williston and CVU. He cautioned that number could change dramatically depending on what the Legislature and governor’s office agree to later this year.
The Williston School Board’s final budget meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. at Williston Central School. Times and locations are subject to change.