School budget hike proposed

Friday December 7, 2012

MANCHESTER -- An early and still- preliminary draft of the upcoming budget for the Manchester school district starts off by calling for a 4.5 percent increase in spending, from $11.16 million to 11.66 million.

The draft budget is expected to be refined further before it needs to be approved later new month, prior to March town Meeting.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4, members of the Manchester school board reviewed the first draft of the budget, and discussed a letter from Governor Shumlin, which asks that schools hold spending to the rate of inflation, or 3.2 percent. Health insurance premiums are also anticipated to be increasing from 12.8 percent to 14 percent, adding upward pressure on the budget.

"It's something we have to keep our eye on," said Dan French, Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union superintendent, referring to the health insurance costs. "We will aim toward the high side and work from there."

The major expenditures include the elementary program (pre-k-8). The fiscal year 2014 budget estimates a total amount of just over $3.44 million compared to last year's total of $3.24 million, representing

a 5.9 percent increase.

Other increases include the special education program (pre-k-8), which is seeing an increase of 12.8 percent from $1.28 million in fiscal year 2013 to $1.44 million in fiscal year 2014. French said he is still working on drafting a budget for the special education program for fiscal year 2014. However, during Tuesday's

meeting there was discussion of an alternative behavioral program.

For several years MEMS has run a program itself. The Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union will now run the program out of MEMS and take on the budget, saving MEMS money.

"We think this makes a lot of sense," said French, "and we will be pursuing it as a part of the BRSU budget model."

The largest percentage increase belongs to vehicle operations, which is estimated to rise 19.8 percent, an increase of just under $8,000.

Currently MEMS has a total of three bus drivers, hardly enough for the number of students that attend the school and use the bus services. Currently a custodian drives a bus along with regular custodial work. MEMS looks to add one custodian to help improve the cleanliness of the school and will allow for one more bus driver.

It is also projected that enrollment in MEMS for the 2013-2014 year will drop from 422 to 418. Other changes at MEMS include the creating a regular assistant principle position and doing away with the Dean of Students position.

The Dean of Students position is being eliminated. Teachers and parents have worked well enough together on discipline issues, according to Sarah Merrill, MEMS' principal.

There will also be a shift in teacher positions as a decline in the number of third graders projected for next year will change the number of third grade teachers from three to two. In relation the number of second grade teachers will rise from two to three. There will be no subtraction or addition of teachers, as projected.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, revenues are also expected to rise 4.5 percent, although monies from outside services, such as fees from the public use of the school's gym are declining. This is an area French said he is working on with Town Manager John O'Keefe.

"Previously this number was $175,000, last year we were at $130,000, we would like to drop to $100,000 next year," French said, referring to the uses of the gym. "The target is somewhere around $75,000. If you think about all the different people that might be using this building the $130,000 has to be justified. That is what myself and John have been working on."


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