Arlington school budget up 1.66 percent

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ARLINGTON — School Board members last week approved and warned a budget that is projected to increase taxes by over nine cents, despite only a slight increase in spending.

The fiscal 2019 budget for the Arlington School District, which was approved unanimously by the board on Wednesday of last week, is $6.956 million, up 1.66 percent over the current year. William Bazyk, superintendent for the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union, pointed out that this number is below the rate of inflation. However, largely due to factors outside the board's control, the homestead education tax rate is projected to go up 9.8 cents over the current fiscal year.

"We've had multiple meetings with the principals," Bazyk said "We feel that they got what they needed. There were really no cuts." He said that besides one additional pre-K teacher, which was necessitated by student population, there were no major additions to the budget. He said that the district also saw considerable savings, about $260,000, through consolidation and adjustments made at the central office.

The reason that the tax rate is increasing much more than the budget is the property tax yield adjustment, a figure set by the legislature that forms the baseline for determining tax rates. The rate is projected to be lowered from last year, and the lower the rate, the higher taxes will be, regardless of spending in any individual district. Gov. Phil Scott's administration warned earlier this month that an increase was coming, and that it could average as high as 9.4 cents.

For a homestead valued at $200,000, a 9.8-cent rate increase would equate to about an additional $196 compared to this year.

"That's the frustrating thing," said Board Chairwoman Nicol Whalen on Wednesday. "Should this be seen in the community as being more than the community can bear, the largest portion of the increase isn't something that we have an opportunity to cut. As soon as we have to make cuts below where we are right now, we start compromising programs."

"When we bring this to the voters in March, we really have to say that we offered a budget at 1.66 percent, which is under the inflationary rate, which is generally accepted at 2, 2.5 percent," said Bazyk. "I feel strongly that, as a board, you have done your work."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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