BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union CFO Rick Pembroke returned to the Bennington School District returned to the district board with a requested spreadsheet of cuts that could lower the FY 2015 budget, which was voted down by Bennington residents in March.
Pembroke explained that negotiations with the bus company, which took place after the vote, had yielded $20,214 in savings from what had been budgeted. In addition, dental insurance for employees had ended up costing less than Pembroke had anticipated, resulting in savings of $1,038. Postage and other fees were also able to be reduced by $800 and $450, respectively, meaning the town has already managed to cut $22,502 from the voted-down $10,203,661 budget.
Pembroke also said the three elementary schools could cut $1,000 each from their kitchen repair funds, although he voiced the worry that if something were to happen, they would have to dip into the district's contingency fund. He also said the Girls on the Run and Four Winds programs could be cut, which would save the school about $12,000 combined. "The reason we're looking at those [programs] is that they only benefit a group of students, rather than the whole student population," said Pembroke.
All told, Pembroke's proposed cuts would equal $37,502, or .38 percent of the BSD's budget. "If you need to go deeper than what's on this piece of paper, you're going to hit staff," warned Pembroke. Pembroke had not yet done the calculations of what effect this would have on the tax rate. He did note that the state had indicated that they may have overestimated the state portion of the education tax, and as currently proposed it would lower Bennington's tax rate by three cents. Pembroke warned the board not to count on that, however, as things can change quickly in Montpelier.
Pembroke also said he had heard from many concerned residents who believed the tax rate in Bennington was raising by 17.5 percent, rather than 17.5 cents. He sought to clarify that the 17.5 cent figure refers to 17.5 cents per $100 in appraised homestead value. A 17.5-cent increase equals an increase of about seven percent.
The board didn't want to make any decisions on Wednesday, and decided to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on April 21 at the SVSU central office, after researching the impacts of Pembroke's proposed cuts. They noted that it may be easier to predict the state budget situation at that time. If all goes well at that meeting, the board is considering warning a vote for May 6. A vote must be warned at least seven days prior to the date of the vote.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB