BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union chief financial officer Richard Pembroke and Mount Anthony Union School Board clerk Timothy Holbrook delivered a presentation breaking down the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget on Thursday.
In his presentation, Pembroke broke down the SVSU's projected expenses with a pie chart. Special education services make up 70.26 percent of the projected budget, with early childhood programs equaling 6.58 percent, administration 4.32 percent, curriculum 5.92 percent, human resources 2.14 percent, tech services 7.19 percent, and the finance department 3.59 percent.
Of these departments, special education is seeing the largest projected increase in funding as well, going up by $684,618. The combined budget of the administrative, curriculum, HR, and English-Language Learning departments will also go up, by $120,133. However budgets of all other departments will decrease, with the tech department getting $62,051 less than last year, early childhood getting $2,219 less than last year, and finance getting $40,213 less than last year. All of this equals a combined increase in expenses of $700,246.99.
Much of the $120,133 increase comes from an increasing number of ELL students, said Superintendent Catherine McClure. ELL was previously known as English as a Second Language. McClure said that Spanish and Chinese were the most common languages spoken by ELL students, but the district was seeing some Japanese and Russian as well.
However, the $700,246.99 increase in expenditures is partially balanced by a $191,174 increase in revenues. Local districts will also receive $300,177.26 in the form of a special education reimbursement, meaning the total net cost of the budget increases to the districts will be $200,895.73, a 1.76% increase.
"The SVSU budget is divided into two sections," said Holbrook, "one is the general proportional assessment. That proportional assessment really has to do with the amount of money that is divided among the districts on a proportional basis, those services that the SVSU central office basically supplies. The other section of the SVSU assessment comes from the direct expenses. That means that those districts that are hiring special education teachers, those expenses are part of the SVSU budget, and therefore those expenses will have to be incorporated into the individual districts."
"The general proportional assessment really has gone down," said Holbrook, "by a little over four and a half percent. The increase in the budget mainly comes from the direct assessment, and that is really an area that is controlled by the individual schools. The individual school boards determine what that assessment is going to be by the number of staff that they hire. Now the total budget for the SVSU that will go out will be an increase of about four and a half percent. This will be shared by the individual districts. That figure can be adjusted, depending on how the individual boards address the issue of how many special education teachers they want to hire for their districts." Holbrook noted that if districts hired more special education teachers the projected 9.8 percent increase in the direct assessment would go up, and eliminating positions would cause it to go down.
"One of the other big issues we discussed was the necessity, that was brought to our attention very clearly by state reports, that we really need to do a better job at organizing and determining how effective our special education programs are. While Wendy [Pierce, director of special education services] and Karen [Burnell, director of early education services] have worked hard to do the best job they possibly can, it became obvious that we did not have the supervision needed to ensure that we were doing things the way we should do them and that we were carrying through with a number of different things that it was pointed out to us that we were not doing," said Holbrook.
In Pembroke's presentation, he echoed this sentiment, saying that some of the changes made within the special education department were to, "Increase the level of supervision, support, and oversight to provide appropriate services for students with disabilities and complex needs."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB.