Friday February 1, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Mount Anthony Union school board unanimously warned a fiscal year 2014 budget Thursday that is up 6 percent and is projected to result in an 11-cent increase to the district’s tax rate.

The budget accounts for very few programmatic increases however due to other circumstances the $25.33 million budget is up $1.4 million. Driving the increase is largely inflationary growth, contractual raises and rising health insurance costs. There is also a higher assessment from Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union -- a common trend among member districts -- largely due to a loss of federal funds and increased special education needs.

All changes to positions in the fiscal 2014 budget are reductions -- including a sixth grade teacher, the teacher of the AMPS Program at the middle school, and half a physical education teacher at the high school.

The only sizable additions to the budget are in the middle school, where there is $50,000 for computer equipment and $15,000 to make up for lost grant funds and advance the agriculture program.

While the MAU budget before voters on Town Meeting Day will be $25.33 million, the school district will actually need to raise $27.65 in taxes, which includes the share MAU must raise on behalf of Southwest Vermont Career Development Center. The CDC budget is voted on separately but taxes to support the technical school are collected by MAU.

While the increase in the bottom line including CDC’s portion is 6 percent, the projected increase to the district’s tax rate is 8.5 percent, or 11 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. The tax rates projected by the SVSU business office are still fluid as the Legislature has yet to set the base cost per equalized pupil amount and base tax rates. In addition to rising costs, MAU’s tax rate is negatively impacted by a loss of 48 equalized pupils. The two factors will result in a $750 increase in the district’s spending per equalized pupil, up to $13,100.

MAU member towns of Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford pay education tax rates prorated according to the percent of students from each town that attend MAU and the towns’ elementary districts. Based on SVSU’s calculations, homestead tax rates in each of MAU’s member towns, with the exception of Woodford, will go up based on the warned budgets.

The most significant increase will be in Pownal, which is projected to rise 11.2 cents, then Bennington at 10.6 cents, North Bennington at 10.2 cents, Shaftsbury ID (which sends students to North Bennington) at 9.3 cents, and Shaftsbury at 2.6 cents. Woodford residents are anticipated to see a 0.5 cent decrease to their homestead tax rate.

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