CORRECTION: It was reported in an article printed on Wednesday that the school tax rate in Woodford is increasing from .9250 to 1.0996, an increase of 17 cents. This is incorrect, according to Rick Pembroke. The actual increase is only 6 cents, up to .9875. The other statistics in the report are correct, although Pembroke stressed that some of the districts, notably North Bennington, are still in the process of finalizing their budgets and could still see changes. Furthermore, Superintendent Catherine McClure's comments at the close of the article were in regards to declining enrollment around the state, not a declining grand list, although Pembroke had mentioned that factor earlier in the meeting. The article has been corrected online to reflect these changes.
DEREK CARSON Staff Writer
WOODFORD -- The Woodford School District Board of Directors voted Wednesday to finalize and warn their budget to voters.
Rick Pembroke, chief financial officer of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union made a final budget presentation before the board, and fielded some questions from board members.
Looking at the bottom line, a tax rate increasing almost 6 cents, from .9250 in FY14 to .9875 in FY15, despite the school cutting its budget by almost 13 percent from the previous year, board member Dick Franz asked Pembroke, "What can we do?"
"Education spending is the one thing you can control," said Pembroke, "and you used that to drive the tax rate down. The state isn't managing their house, encouraging a strong economy." He went on, "The problem with the formula is that the balancing factor is the property tax."
Pembroke referenced declining revenues across the state, forcing the state government to look to local property tax to make up the difference.
Board member Avis Bruce-Hurley expressed frustration, saying, "We've lost several properties right off the tax list, as of [Hurricane] Irene."
As the Mount Anthony Union School District has finalized its budget that will go before voters, Pembroke was able to show the board the total combined effect MAU and Woodford schools will have on the town's tax rate. Woodford residents will pay school tax at a rate of 1.1543, should the budget pass, up nine cents from the rate of 1.0611 in FY14. This means a resident of Woodford will pay $1,154.26 towards MAU and Woodford school districts for every $100,000 of appraised value in their home.
Pembroke also announced the total tax rates for SVSU's other member districts. In Bennington, the combined tax rate will increase from 1.4056 to 1.5410, an increase of 13 cents, equating to $1,541 in school taxes per $100,000 in home value. North Bennington residents will see their taxes increase from 1.5909 to 1.7642, an increase of 17 cents, equating to $1,764.21 per $100,000. In Shaftsbury District 1, whose students attend North Bennington schools, residents will see their taxes increase from a rate of 1.3967 to 1.4678, an increase of 7 cents, which translates to $1,467.78 per $100,000.
In Shaftsbury, one of the few towns to see an increase in enrollment, residents will see their school taxes increase by only two cents, from 1.2036 to 1.2254, which equates to $1,225.37 per $100,000. Finally, in Pownal, residents will see their school tax rate rise eight cents, from 1.3210 to 1.4046, which translates to $1,404,60 per $100,000.
Superintendent Catherine McClure, who was also in attendance at the meeting, expressed disappointment in state leaders such as Gov. Peter Shumlin and Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding, who have publicly encouraged districts to cut spending in response to declining enrollment around the state, saying, "What they're failing to remember is the increasing cost of meeting students' needs."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB