SVSU districts reduce spending in tough budget year

BENNINGTON — With the threat of a statewide education tax increase looming, districts in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union are doing everything in their power to keep their own budgets under control.

With a month still to go before budgets need to be finalized, most of the districts are in pretty good shape.

The Mount Anthony Union budget, which directly affects each of the district tax rates, is on track to decrease by 2.33 percent. This should help to mitigate the statewide increase. The SVSU's financial office has estimated, based on the most recent estimates, that Bennington's MAU rate would decrease by about a tenth of a cent, North Bennington's would decrease by two cents, Pownal's would increase by three cents, Shaftsbury's would increase by two cents, and Woodford's would increase by two cents. The MAU rates are blended with the elementary district rates to form the final homestead education tax rate, based on the percentage of the town's students that attend each. For example, if Bennington School Districts rate was up two cents and Bennington's MAU rate was up two cents, the total increase would be two cents, not four.

The Bennington School District has not met to discuss the budget since their initial meeting earlier this month, at which it was reported that they were facing a rate increase of over 10 cents, due in part to a budget increase of $678,990, or 5.10 percent. At that meeting, the board tasked principals and department heads to identify line items that could be decreased. The board is scheduled to meet again next Wednesday, with budget discussions beginning at 6 p.m.

Shaftsbury's draft budget, which they last reviewed on Dec. 18, is down $82,245, or 2.29 percent. The SVSU finance office is estimating that this will translate into a tax rate increase of 1.82 cents.

Pownal's last budget meeting was Dec. 20, at which point they were presented with a draft budget that was down $99,790, or 2.34 percent, which the finance office estimates would lead to a decrease of less than half a cent.

Woodford and North Bennington have not yet held budget meetings, but at North Bennington's last regular meeting, board member Matthew Patterson updated the board, saying that the tax rate looks to be close to level next year.

The finance office's tax rates estimates are based on a projected property yield adjustment of $9,842. This number will be set by the legislature in the spring. If it is lower, rates will go up, and if it is higher, rates will go down. For this budget year, the adjustment was set at $10,160.

One cent on the tax rate is one cent per $100 in appraised value. For a home valued at $200,000, a one cent rate increase would represent an additional $20 in property taxes.

The SVSU budget and the tuition rate for the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, which are both included in the district budgets, are roughly level this year as compared to last year.

Budgets will be finalized by the district boards in January, and will be voted on at Town Meeting in March.

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


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