NORTH BENNINGTON — The North Bennington Prudential Committee received their first budget report on Jan. 13, and are already projected to see a sizeable tax decrease.
The report, which was presented at their regularly scheduled meeting by Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Chief Financial Officer Rick Pembroke, who said that several parts of the calculation were based on estimates, such as what the Village School of North Bennington's tuition rate would be for the coming year. Despite estimating high on these factors, the estimated education tax rate already shows a 5.96 cent per $100 in appraised property value decrease for North Bennington and a 0.75 cent decrease for the Shaftsbury ID District.
This decrease is not driven by a decrease in expenditures in the district, which are projected to be up $401,319, or just over 16 percent. An increase on the revenues side of the budget, specifically from a large fund balance, an increase in the General State Support Grant, and an increase in special education reimbursements from the state, acts to mitigate that, however, as does a jump in the number of equalized pupils, which comes from expanded pre-K offerings as well as a large incoming kindergarten class replacing a smaller departing sixth grade class.
While he did not know the specific numbers, board chairman Ray Mullineaux said that the tuition numbers being discussed by the Village School's trustees are lower than the numbers Pembroke projected, which will lead to further cost savings in the budget. He said their goal was to increase the tuition by now more than 2.5 percent. As it stands now, the district is over their Act 46 spending growth cap by $10,150.41, or $77.36 per student. All of that money is being double taxed by the state. The tuition rate changes alone should allow North Bennington to get under those limits, which will positively impact the tax rate. "I don't think there's any reason to worry about the thresholds," said Pembroke, "This, right now, is very manageable."
North Bennington will meet again on Thursday morning this week to further discuss their budget, but the end of the month deadline for finalizing it is rapidly approaching. "We're running out of time," said Pembroke, "I need to know where you want to land."
The North Bennington Prudential Committee meets the second Wednesday of every month in the library at the Village School of North Bennington. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.