Wednesday February 6, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

ARLINGTON -- Arlington School District warned a fiscal year 2014 budget up 6 percent, yet the impact it is expected to have on residents’ tax rates is a two-cent decrease.

An increase of 35 equalized pupils and rising common level of appraisal (CLA) in Arlington more than offset the increased spending on the tax rate. The warned budget that will go before voters March 5 is up $340,000 to $6.02 million, however includes few programmatic changes.

The budget does not include funds to replace a French teacher retiring from Arlington Memorial Middle and High School at the end of the year. Instead, Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union Superintendent Karen Gallese said students who have already taken French classes and wish to continue next year will be able to do so through an online course. The other personnel changes accounted for in the budget are the addition of a teacher at Fisher Elementary and replacement of a retiring Spanish/English teacher with a part-time Spanish and part-time social studies teacher, Gallese said.

Most of increase is at Fisher

The majority of the spending increase is at Fisher Elementary, where enrollment has climbed significantly in recent years and there will be a need for an additional third-grade teacher in the fall. Fisher’s portion of the budget is up $270,000, or nearly 11 percent. The largest share of that increase is due to rising special education needs that raised the budget $100,000. Gallese said about $90,000 of that increase is to pay an out-of-district placement for a child anticipated to be in the district next year.

Other budget increases are largely due to contractual salary hikes and a budgeted 15 percent increase in health insurance, according to Business Manager Richard Pembroke.

Because Arlington teachers and support staff are in the middle of contract negotiations, salaries for next year are unknown. The district has budgeted a 4 percent increase to be safe.

The district is seeing some financial benefits resulting from seven teacher retirements at the end of the school year, but it is also paying nearly $80,000 to those teachers and others who retired last summer after the board offered and incentive of $30,000 over three years to each teacher who announced early their intent to retire.

When the incentive was offered last year it was the expectation of previous Superintendent Thomas Gallagher that at least three teachers would not be replaced, saving the district even more money, however as enrollment has increased that number dropped to one.

Even though spending is up, a projected tax rate calculated by the business office shows an anticipated tax rate decrease of 1.76 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. That decrease would mean a person owning at $100,000 home would pay $17 less in homestead taxes next year. The tax rate, however, is not final as the Legislature has yet to set the base spending per pupil or base tax rate.

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