SHAFTSBURY -- At the request of the Shaftsbury Elementary School Board, Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union CFO Rick Pembroke has compiled a set of data analyzing the impact should the district absorb Shaftsbury District 1, whose students currently attend school in North Bennington.
In the 1870s, the State of Vermont declared that students residing in Shaftsbury District 1, known as the ID District, would attend school in North Bennington, rather than Shaftsbury. With the North Bennington Graded School becoming non-operating last summer, and its students moving to the independent Village School of North Bennington, Shaftsbury has begun looking into the possibility of getting those students back.
As Vermont calculates school tax rates through a complicated formula based on spending per equalized pupil, shifting the 30 current ID students from North Bennington to Shaftsbury could, at least in theory, lead to a lower tax rate in Shaftsbury and a higher tax rate in North Bennington. Pembroke's analysis does not include the potential effects on North Bennington, as that was outside the scope of the Shaftsbury board's request. Any final determinations in this regard would depend on numerous factors, including whether the schools added or dropped personnel to reflect the change in student population.
Pembroke's report assumes that Shaftsbury would hire one additional classroom teacher and one kindergarten paraeducator, in total leading to a $94,558 increase in staff spending. Pembroke wrote in the report that the cost of transportation would remain the same, as "it is believed the district can reroute its buses to pick up the additional 30 students without an increase in cost." In total, Shaftsbury's school budget would need to increase from $3,450,755 to roughly $3,596,352 to accomodate the 30 additional students.
However, because the tax rate is calculated based on a formula which divides education spending by equalized pupils, and the increase in students would outweigh the increase in spending, school tax rates for Shaftsbury residents outside of the ID district would drop by 3.16 cents. For ID district residents, who are paying school taxes based on North Bennington's higher ed spending per equalized pupil, their school tax rate would drop 24 cents.
Effectively, non-ID residents would save $31.57 per $100,000 in appraised value each year. ID residents would save $241.40 per $100,000 each year. These numbers assume that all 30 students enter Shaftsbury Elementary School. Again, the projected effect on the tax rate in the North Bennington Graded School District is not included in this report.
The number of special education students in the district would increase from 29 to 32 students, reports Pembroke, raising the case load per special education teacher from 12 per teacher to 13 per teacher. "Based on state and national data," writes Pembroke, "a 13:1 case load is very reasonable."
This report was handed out to the Shaftsbury School Board at their meeting last Wednesday, however, Pembroke was unable to be present to answer questions about the report. The board will look at it again at their next meeting, on May 14. That meeting is scheduled to take place at the Shaftsbury Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.
At the board's Feb. 12 meeting, several ID residents spoke out against the proposed move. One, Heather Bullock, submitted a written letter to the board. "In approximately 1870, the State legislature and residents implemented a charter that created clear and specific school district boundaries for those Shaftsbury town residents who resided in North Bennington," it reads, "Shaftsbury School District has no obligation to educate or authority to make decisions for families residing within a neighboring school district."
"As a district one parent," she closes the letter, "I have serious concerns regarding the motives of the Shaftsbury board on this issue. It is apparent that this is not in the best interest of the children within the North Bennington School District and it raises questions as to the true motive behind these aggresive actions against a neighboring school district."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB