Thursday January 10, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- Shaftsbury School District is looking at a fiscal year 2014 budget increase of nearly 15 percent, the overwhelming majority of it due to increased special education needs within the district.

No way to avoid increases

The assessment to Shaftsbury from Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, which assesses all special education costs to member districts, accounts for $360,000 of the district's $400,000 increase in the proposed budget. Of that assessment, $270,000 is for special education services.

Shaftsbury does control the special education services it receives even though they are in the SVSU budget, however administration told the board at its budget work session Tuesday there is no way to avoid the increases.

The proposed budget, which is still being revised and will not be approved for a few more weeks, includes one additional special education paraprofessional, (which was actually approved last month to begin in January due to increased needs) as well as a 0.2 percent increase to a special educator position and 0.2 percent increase in the home to school liaison position.

Beyond special education, the district is seeing a $90,000 assessment increase from SVSU. Part of the increase is a new file clerk position as well as Shaftsbury paying a higher percent of the SVSU budget due to its increased student enrollment. Shaftsbury and other districts are also likely to see increases if North Bennington proceeds with closing its public school.


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Other changes in the proposed budget include an additional $14,000 for health benefits for the principal (in expectation James Harwood's replacement following his retirement will opt to take the benefits Harwood declines) and nearly $29,000 local taxpayers will have to pick up in guidance due to a loss of federal grant money.

The district is expected to save about $26,000 due to teacher retirements.

The estimated impact the increase in spending would have on the district tax rate (without considering revenue, which has yet to be calculated) would be a 6.5 cent increase, according to SVSU Chief Financial Officer Richard Pembroke. The estimate is very fluid because it does not factor in revenues and includes estimates of the base education spending per equalized pupil and base homestead tax rate, both of which must be set by the Legislature. But, Pembroke said, what his calculations at this point do show is the positive impact Shaftsbury's increased enrollment and increased common level of appraisal (CLA) will have on the tax rate. The town's CLA has increased 4.5 percent up to 106 percent and the equalized pupil count is up 20 to 227 students. Because of those factors, the 15 percent budget increase would only result in a 5.5 percent increase in tax rate.

"Your increased CLA and your rising student population is softening that hit, in my opinion significantly," Pembroke said. "It still doesn't look good in my opinion, but it could look a whole lot worse if you didn't have that increase enrollment."

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi