BENNINGTON >> At Monday's meeting of the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center board of directors, the group decided to delay the hiring of new instructors for the Informatics and Engineering and Design programs due to budget constraints.
The possibility of not filling both positions had been discussed at the board's December meeting, but Monday's vote made it official. Board chairman Jim Boutin said that they board would take the year to rewrite that engineering program and look for ways to make improvements. Board member Ed Letourneau asked if, in the event that a candidate emerged that the board wanted to hire, if they would be able to use contingency fund money to fund the position. Boutin said that fund can only be accessed for equipment purchases and capital improvement. Business Manager Stephanie Mulligan clarified that, outside of the reserve fund that Boutin was referring to, approximately $80,000 in contingency funds are present in the budget, but she warned that, in as tight of a budget as this one, those funds might be needed elsewhere.
Informatics is the study of computer information systems, and the program would have covered networking, security, and more.
Boutin stressed that neither of these positions were off the table, and that there would hopefully be funding available in the future. "It's just a delay," he said, "We don't have it in the budget, funded, for next year. There are some options, as we've just discussed, where if we have something come up, or a grant does surface, we're open to bring it right to the table."
"I really support these programs, but it can't happen for next year due to budgetary constraints," said superintendent Michael Lawler, "That's just what it comes down to."
"It's really too bad, we've been caught here in a pickle with these spending caps," said Boutin, referring to one of the more controversial aspects of last year's education bill, Act 46, "I want to put it out to the public, and to our legislators, that we have done a lot of work in this school and in this district to keep that spending down this year, and to keep it to the point where Mount Anthony, Arlington, and Manchester are not going to go over their spending caps, because if they do, they're going to be fined heavily. Here we've done all this work to hold things in check, to put our programs on stall, and who's paying the price here? The students."
Boutin promised that the education committee would continue to discuss both programs, and wouldn't let either disappear. Mulligan, giving a presentation of the overall budget, said that it was down $216,893 from last year, a decrease of over 5 percent. Tuition will go down by about $26. "That certainly will help the other districts," said Boutin. Mulligan said that tuition is decreasing less than the overall budget because enrollment at the school has also declined.
"I really feel that we did our jobs, and were very prudent," said board member Ricky Harrington, "When our enrollments drop, we should be able to do something about it. I understand there are certain things, overhead doesn't change with the number of students, but we should be able to make some changes, and unfortunately, we're not seeing that in other places. So thank you, everybody, for doing your jobs."