Saturday February 2, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

WOODFORD -- Woodford School District is taking advantage of a significant fund balance to level fund the fiscal year 2014 budget.

The school board unanimously warned a leveled funded $475,000 budget Wednesday by applying $55,000 of a $126,000 fund balance to offset revenue that would otherwise have needed to be raised by taxes. The flat budget is expected to result in a one-cent increase in the school district’s tax rate, according to projections from the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union business office. The tax rate projection is not final as the Legislature has yet to set the base tax rate or cost per pupil amount.

Just before the end of last fiscal year the district received about $200,000 in federal impact aid from for its national forest land. The payment was more than twice what the district budgeted to receive, which accounts for $102,000 of the $126,000 fund balance, according to Richard Pembroke, SVSU chief financial officer.

The school board decided to apply enough of the fund balance to the budget to keep spending flat, which leaves the district $71,000 remaining that the board will ask voters in a separate article on the March ballot to put in a reserve fund.

The applied fund balance puts Woodford in a unique circumstance compared to other SVSU school districts that are experiencing budget increases ranging from 6 to 20 percent and tax rates projected to increase by as much as 20 cents in Bennington School District.

Woodford School District’s one-cent tax rate increase is actually anticipated to be offset after blending the homestead tax rate in Woodford with Mount Anthony Union’s tax rate. Woodford’s 11 percent increase to its common level of appraisal (CLA) negates the 8.5 percent increase in MAU’s tax rate.

To keep spending flat the board had to make some cuts to offset some increases including a 3 percent ($3,700) increase for teacher salaries. The district is also seeing a $4,100 increase to cover its share of the SVSU technology department costs due to a new way in which technology personnel are funded. Other budget increases include $5,000 to start a public-private pre-kindergarten program in the fall.

To the benefit of the district special education costs are down $9,500. The board also reduced $3,000 for the treasurer’s salary, which is now budgeted at $3,250, cut $1,500 from the principal’s equipment line, and reduced $9,000 from the line in the budget for custodial services.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi.