ARLINGTON -- Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union last week approved a fiscal year 2014 budget that, for the first time, includes all special education and transportation expenses.
The spending shift to BVSU was done in accordance with Act 153 of 2010, which mandates the centralization of all special education and transportation expenses in supervisory union budgets by the summer of 2014. In previous years both services have been funded through the local budgets of Arlington and Sandgate school districts.
No impact on spending
The change has no impact on spending or what taxpayers will be asked to raise because the funds will be directly assessed by BVSU to its member districts. The transition will, however, create more work for the school boards to educate the public about why the BVSU budget next year shows a 360 percent increase from $355,000 to $1.63 million.
"This $1.3 million of cost shifting that's taking place here just flows through to the Arlington and Sandgate budgets. It replaces the detailed transportation and (special ed lines in the district budgets) with the single assessment," Business Manager Richard Pembroke said. "It's a net cost neutral to the taxpayers, it's just an accounting mechanism that the state wants us to use to have those functions at the SU level because they believe they can be managed less expensively at the SU level.
The actual increase in the BVSU budget this year is about $200,000, the majority of which is found in special education due to increased student needs, Pembroke said. The special education expenses are up $176,000, or about 20 percent.
"It's mostly increased needs," Pembroke said.
Transportation is up about $11,000 and the remainder of the BVSU budget is also up $11,000, or 3 percent from last year's budget minus special education and transportation. That increase is largely due to salary increases, a more expensive audit and a loss of federal funds that paid part of the special education administrative salary.
Early in the budget formation process the board discussed reverting to a full-time special education director as the position had been prior to this year, however the board ultimately decided to leave it at three days per week. Special Education Director Dawn Campbell said at a meeting in December that she believes she can do the job working three days a week, which she said is made easier because of the capable special education staff in Arlington's schools.
Unlike school district budgets, in Vermont supervisory union budgets are approved by the school board without being voted on by the electorate.
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