Thursday January 31, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- Pownal School District warned a fiscal year 2014 budget that represents an 11 percent increase in spending and is anticipated to result in a 15 percent tax rate increase in the district.

Similar to other area districts, Pownal is being hit hard by a decrease in federal support grants and increased special education needs that make up a large portion of the $470,000 increase to the $4.5 million budget.

"(The budget shows) a $470,000 increase, of which $360,000 of that is the (Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union’s assessment), and of that $360,000, $243,000 of that is special ed," SVSU Chief Financial Officer Richard Pembroke explained.

Included in the special education increase is an additional paraprofessional as well as increased occupational therapy and physical therapy support services.

Taxpayers will also have to pick up an additional $90,000 due to a loss of federal grants that are being used this year to pay for a paraprofessional, the home to school liaison, the afterschool kindergarten camp and summer programing.

Additional increases come from a 15 percent increase in health insurance costs, contractual raises, and increasing by $20,000 the amount put into the school bus reserve fund.

Voters will be asked on a separate article whether they will put $35,000 into a school bus sinking fund, up from $15,000 last year. The district is not in need of a new school bus now, but in order to have money for a new bus in five or six years the district will have to replenish its bus fund with $35,000 a year.

"They’ve got to start now putting money aside," said James Kocsis, an accounting manager who has helped to develop Pownal’s budget. "The end of this year they’ll have $12,000 (in the sinking fund), but a bus costs $90,000."

The 11.6 percent spending increase is projected to amount to a 15-cent tax rate increase for the school district, however the town’s homestead tax rate is expected to be closer to 11 cents after Mount Anthony Union’s tax rate is blended with the elementary district’s. An 11-cent increase on the tax rate means a person who owns a home assessed at $100,000 would be required to pay an additional $110 in taxes.

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